An accident-prone Queenstown longboarder and a leading brain injury researcher are calling for all extreme sports enthusiasts to wear helmets.
Irishman Scott Barriscale, 24, suffered a collapsed lung, four fractured ribs, a ruptured and dislocated shoulder, and a torn knee ligament when he smacked into a pole on Queenstown’s Man Street after losing control of his board on Christmas Day.
“I flew about 15 metres with a bounce in the middle and then wrapped myself around a pole,” Barriscale says.
The 60kmh crash capped a painful year – in March he broke two bones in his hand in a car crash, before breaking the other thumb and two ribs in a ski crash, then snapping his ankle while trampolining.
Barriscale was wearing a helmet in both sports crashes and says the severity of injuries to other parts of his body shows why helmets are lifesavers.
Barriscale: “You have to wear a lid because concrete really hurts when you fall on it. You know about it.
“I was really lucky – a foot back, I would have connected with my head full-on at top speed.
“Working on The Remarkables in the winter and skiing, I wear a helmet every day. It’s just too easy to hit your head. I don’t mind about breaking bones or whatever but hitting your head is a different story.”
Barriscale’s calls are backed by Auckland University’s National Institute for Stroke & Applied Neuroscience professor Valery Feigin.
A study by Feigin’s research team – recently published in international medical journal The Lancet – shows the number of people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in New Zealand is at “epidemic proportions” with an estimated 36,000 new cases a year.
Falls, not including contact sports, account for 37 per cent and 70 per cent of TBI victims are younger than 34.
Feigin: “Wearing helmets for all high-risk sports is now a universally-accepted precaution measure. It’s based on best-practice evidence.”
He’s also calling on Queenstowners to attend hospital whenever they hit their heads – even moderate knocks.
“I strongly advocate for that,” Feigin says. “No matter how they regard their symptoms.
“Neurological tests, CT scanning can detect serious problems and they can be taken care of early on. If they’re missed it can lead to serious consequences.”
Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) recorded 306 new claims for the June 2012 year for head injuries in Otago, covering a range of sports including skateboarding and snowboarding but not rugby or boxing.
This represents a slight decrease from 2010, when an 80-year-old Japanese skier died on Coronet Peak skifield
after a crash.
For all sports, there were 650 TBIs in Otago in the same 2011-12 period.
Barriscale, a chef, was covered by ACC and spent a week in hospital after the crash.
“I was bombing it down Man St when a back wheel hit some gravel, just a couple of stones – it was that easy.
“When I got back up I couldn’t breathe, not even a small gasp. I tried to shout for help but couldn’t,” he says.
Barriscale was saved by two German girls, who put him in the recovery position and called an ambulance.
He plans to conquer Man St and then longboard elsewhere.
“You need to put it behind you but there are plenty of other nice hills that I haven’t almost killed myself on.
“I’ll definitely continue to push it though. That’s why there’s no stigma attached to helmets these days – it’s all
about the feeling and the thrill, not looking cool.”