What I've Learned

What I’ve Learned: Getting a Concussion

About 6 weeks ago I got caught in a bad crash on a group ride and sustained a  concussion.  While getting my bell rung doesn’t make me an expert on concussions, I’ve learned a few things that might be helpful in the event you’re ever in a similar spot.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

Start by Not Getting a Concussion

Concussions are horribly inconvenient.  I figure in the last 6 weeks my work capacity has been reduced by at least 50%, in addition to increasing the workload on my wife around the house.

If I had to do it all over again I would have put more thought into giving myself the best chance to avoid a concussion in the first place, starting with my helmet.

All Helmets Aren’t Equally Safe

I’ve always assumed since all cycling helmets have to pass the same safety test standards, the only real difference between models was comfort, aerodynamics, and aesthetics.

I’ve since learned standard EPS foam helmets (like the Specialized Evade I was wearing) probably don’t do as good of a job preventing concussions as helmets that utilize specific technology to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity (the types of forces that cause most concussions).

Helmets equipped with MIPS use a “slip liner” to help reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity
Helmets using Wavecel use a “collapsible cellular material” to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity

My advice is to take a few minutes to research technologies like MIPS and Wavecel and see if you’re convinced by their claims of improved safety.

If you’re looking for an independent perspective on helmet safety, head over to the Virginia Tech Bicycle Helmet Ratings website and check out which helmets are rated as top performers.

Seek the Best Advice

Your medical provider might not be familiar with best practices for care after a concussion.  Obviously their advice is the first place you should start, but it might help to educate yourself further using the perspective of physicians who have experience working in the sport of cycling.

Click on the image below to read through the Medicine of Cycling consensus statement on concussions in cycling.

If you’ve just had a concussion, have someone else read through the document and help you assemble the pieces of best practice along with your doctors advice.

Medicine of Cycling Consensus Statement on Concussions

Everyone is Different

I’ve talked with a bunch of cyclists, interested to learn about their own experience when it comes to concussion symptoms and recovery time lines and I’ve learned that no one’s experience is the same.

Symptoms for those I talked to were all over the map.  Some only had a bad headache, others felt dizzy for months.  As much as I tried to figure out what a “normal” concussion looked liked, it didn’t seem to exist.

Most likely your concussion symptoms will be a combination of the different symptoms listed below.

From the Medicine of Cycling Consensus Statement on Concussions in Cycling

When it comes to recovery the spectrum was equally diverse.  Some of those I talked with bounced back in a few days, others took close to a year.  The take away?  If you’ve recently sustained a concussion, it might take weeks to months before you’re feeling 100% again.

In a Nutshell

  • All helmets aren’t equally safe.  Different designs seem to provide greater protection against concussions
  • Make sure you or a loved one is familiar with “best practices” following a concussion
  • Concussions are frustrating.  Everyone’s symptoms and recovery timeline seem to be a bit different.  Stop beating yourself up and rest instead.

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Nate Dunn
Founder/Head Coach
Data Driven Athlete

Written by Nate Dunn, M.S.

​Nate has spent his entire career in education and coaching. As a former teacher and now Founder/Head Coach at Data Driven Athlete, he is most excited about helping clients discover more about themselves as they achieve their goals on the bike.