Dr. Rolf Gainer, Chief Executive Officer of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital, was interviewed by the Canadian Television News Channel today regarding the brain injury of Michael Schumacher. Schumacher, a Formula One Champion race car driver, had a skiing accident while on vacation in the French Alps.
Dr. Gainer commented on the common misconception that if someone is awake and talking they will be okay. As in the case of actress and humanitarian, Natasha Richardson’s brain injury, she was verbal and aware and yet lost consciousness hours after her initial skiing accident. Dr. Gainer also commented on the long road of recovery ahead for Schumacher. When asked if Schumacher would ever fully recover from his brain injury, Dr. Gainer explained the concept of “The New Normal” in terms of a realistic viewpoint on an individual’s recovery process from brain injury.
In this New York Times article, the numbers show that helmet use in the sport of skiing has increased, but that has failed to decrease the number of brain injuries. Increased helmet use may lead one into a false sense of safety with individuals engaging in riskier behavior on the slopes such as taking bigger jumps. Even though helmet use has tripled in the U.S., the rate of brain injuries has remained the same. It’s possible that more brain injuries are being accurately diagnosed as a result of growing awareness. Helmets will not completely prevent brain injury, however, as Dr. Gainer points out in the interview, the use of a helmet likely prevented Schumacher’s death at the scene of the accident as it served to absorb some of the impact.
Click here to watch Dr. Gainer’s interview with CTV News.