Michigan Windsurfing

Windsurfing & Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Michigan

    I had a helmet years ago, but it did not fit well so I only used it in the gnarliest of conditions. Eventually I lost track of it (probably left at some beach).  My renewed interest in routinely wearing a helmet while windsurfing (as I do when skiing or biking) stems from an incident that occurred last month.

   If I could, I would share the details of the incident as a cautionary tale.  However, I have no memory of what happened. My last clear memory was jibing from starboard to port near the Lansing Sailing Club, then starting the reach back to the boat launch.  It was a nice, clear, 6.3 day.  My next clear memory is driving to the ER with my wife, with a bloody bandage wrapped around my head (courtesy of a nice lady from the sailing club, who also called my wife to come pick me up).  No one saw exactly what happened, but I must have hit my head on something and suffered a concussion.  I have no memory of getting off the water, getting bandaged, or telling the nice lady my wife's phone number.

    Inspecting my equipment after the incident, I discovered that my boom was missing one of the bolts that secures the clamp to the boom head.  Perhaps equipment failure was a contributing factor?  I will never know.  Coincidentally, I also saw the ER bill today.  Even with excellent health insurance, the helmet cost less than half what I owe.  Perhaps this post can still serve as a cautionary tale.  If wearing a helmet saves a trip to the ER, it can pay for itself.

    The good news is that my injury was relatively minor.  I did have a headache for several days and three staples in the back of my head for a week.  The ER doctors quickly ruled out skull fracture, spinal cord injury, cranial bleeding, etc.  Because I also had bruising on my back, they performed a CT scan to check my internal organs as well.  Mostly, that was fine as well.  However, the radiologist noted that my left lung has still not fully healed from my bout of COVID in early March (a full three months prior to the CT scan).  Actually, the radiologist was unaware of my clinical history, so  her diagnosis was the onset of COVID, rather than the lingering after-effect.  I was able to clear that up with the ER doctors before I was discharged.

   All in all, the first half of 2020 has been way too exciting for me.  I'm hoping that the remainder of 2020 is downright boring by comparison.

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Wow. You are lucky.  That's scary.  Did a good samaritan pull you out of the water, or did you self-rescue?

I am all for wearing helmets. There are two injuries that worry me.

1. Getting ragdolled with only the front foot in the straps (before getting the back foot in). =knee injury.

2. Getting knocked out on the water.  I've seen stars a couple of times from bad crashes, but never knocked out.  I've trained myself to stay under for 2-3 seconds if I am unsure of where the mast/boom are falling.

-Jim

OH yeah. One more . . . 

3. Getting the harness lines twisted on a fall, and being stuck under the sail and unable to get the hook out of the straps.  This happened to me once, but I managed to get the hook out.  For this one, every time I head out for a session I cinch up the harness, then close my eyes and unbuckle, hoping that this training will help me keep my cool in a stressful situation.

I feel lucky that the incident wasn't worse.  As I said, I have no memory of the incident itself or the immediate aftermath.  The next day, I met with some of the folks from the sailing club (two of whom are windsurfers) to collect my gear and learn what they knew.  They told me that they were loosely watching me sail, but not at the time of the incident.  They said that they heard a loud crash, which got their attention.  They said they helped me and my gear off the water, that I was conscious, but that I was "out of it."  I guess I told them to call my wife (and recited her phone number) and I guess I let them bandage my bleeding head, but I have no memory of either.

So, from now on, I will be easy to spot - I'll be the one sporting a light blue Neil Pryde helmet.

PS - the other health issue I worry about is malignant melanoma, so I'll also be the one sporting a grey and black rash guard (when not wearing a wet suit).  I did get a mole biopsied earlier this year, but it was benign.  So 2020 has not been all bad.

Have sailed at all since your head injury?

Yes, I have sailed 2 or three times, only after following the established concussion protocol.  For a full week following the injury, I refrained from biking, sailing, or any activity that might result in another concussion.  After that, I consulted with a neuro-psychologist to ensure that I did not have any lingering symptoms.

PS - the injury occurred the day after we sailed together at Muskegon.

Larry,

Thanks for sharing this story.  Not that I do, but there's no reason not to wear a helmet, since we all wear one biking and skiing without thinking about it.  I'm so glad that you're okay and recovering.

Brian

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