When Winter Fun Leads to a Health Crisis: This is Matt’s Story

January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. At HelpHOPELive, a number of our clients have been injured while enjoying snowbound activities including sledding, snowboarding and skiing. While many may be aware of the inherent risks associated with winter sports, few realize the lifelong financial consequences associated with traumatic brain injuries. This month we call on all our supporters to help raise awareness of this important issue.

matt colluraFor Matt Collura, an impromptu snowboarding trip to Shawnee Mountain in Eastern Pennsylvania three years ago began like any other, but it would end up drastically changing his life. Sliding down one of the mountain’s most challenging slopes, Matt was separated from his friend Tyler, who then spent hours searching the trail for the missing Matt. While looking in the nearby woods Tyler lost his focus and fell toward the brush, where he coincidentally found Matt, unconscious and covered in blood at the bottom of a 10 foot ravine. Matt’s crash and resulting traumatic brain injury (TBI) left him in a coma for a month. When he awoke, he had to spend months in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at the Kessler Institute in West Orange to rehabilitate his severely limited speech function and range of mobility.

By their nature, winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, skating, ice hockey and even sledding all involve navigating cold, hard surfaces at high speeds, and carry an inherent risk of bodily injuries and TBI. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, outdoor and indoor winter sports accounted for 29,701 head injuries treated in US emergency rooms in 2009, and were a top 10 cause of head injuries among children ages 14 and younger[1].

January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, so we will be turning our attention this month to some of the millions of people like Matt who take to the slopes, rinks and hillsides every year in search of fun and excitement, many of whom do not take the necessary precautions to remain safe. According to the National Ski Areas Association[2], in 2011-2012 only 53% of skiers and snowboarders aged 18-24 wore helmets, though this is up 194% from 2002-2003 when only 18% of this demographic wore helmets.

The costs associated with recovery from TBI can be immense. Yearly expenses for a catastrophic injury such as TBI can be over $1 million, and even with insurance there are significant long-term out of pocket expenses to consider, such as rehabilitation bills, home health care fees and the costs of modifying one’s home or vehicle for increased accessibility and mobility.

At HelpHOPELive, we work to engage the community and foster local fundraising efforts that will help patients and families cover these costs. Over the last three years, Matt Collura and his family have partnered with HelpHOPELive to raise the money necessary for Matt to take tremendous strides in his recovery. Working together with our fundraising coordinators, they established fundraisers like the annual 5k race and BBQ in his hometown.

Finish_MC5KIV2_1With assistance from HelpHOPELive and the love and support of his friends, family and community, Matt can now speak more clearly, walk with a walker or with minimal assistance, and get up and down stairs with little or no help. Last year, he even rode his recumbent bicycle for nearly the entire course of his charity 5k before leaving the bike to walk the last 100 feet with his father. For more information on Matt’s progress, visit his HelpHOPELive campaign page.

If you know someone who has experienced a TBI as a result of a winter sport, visit www.helphopelive.org to see how the dedicated fundraising experts at HelpHOPELive can help set up a campaign to cover the uninsured expenses involved in rehabilitation.

[1] http://www.aans.org/patient%20information/conditions%20and%20treatments/sports-related%20head%20injury.aspx

[2] https://www.nsaa.org/media/68045/NSAA-Facts-About-Skiing-Snowboarding-Safety-10-1-12.pdf

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