Karlin: Don’t let a concussion rain on your Mardi Gras parade

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is the most festive time of the year. The parades, food, festivities and laid-back atmosphere all make for a good time.

Unfortunately, many of the things that make Mardi Gras great – including overindulgence with libations at parties and scrambling to get one of the coveted parade throws – can also lead to injury. A not-so-uncommon injury during this time is a concussion incurred from a trip or fall, a tumble off a float or a head injury sustained during a mad dash for that shiny pair of beads.

Dr. Aaron Karlin

Avoiding head injuries

Below are some tips to avoid a head injury and stay safe during Carnival season:

* Know your surroundings * The step on the curb between the neutral ground and the street can be a trip hazard. When your eyes on are the prize (like a Zulu coconut or a pair of Iris sunglasses), make sure you are aware of the different ground levels on the parade route. This promotes solid footing that can help you keep your balance.

* Don’t over consume alcohol* Alcohol is a known suppressant of the central nervous system, as well as the mechanism that maintains balance within the brain and inner ear. Avoid drinking beyond your limits to avoid a dangerous accident.

* Be aware of crowds * To avoid a concussion during Carnival season, be aware of crowds. If you are a Mardi Gras veteran, allow the rookies to scramble for the beads on the ground and conserve your energy for the more desirable throws.

What to do if you suffer a head injury

Should you sustain a head injury during Carnival season, it is important to alert those celebrating with you of the injury so they can monitor your overall mental and physical state and, if necessary, help you maintain consciousness.

If there is depression of consciousness, difficulty in maintaining alertness and/or other common concussion-related symptoms such as weakness, slurred speech, confusion, nausea, vomiting, light/sound sensitivity or trouble maintaining balance, then an evaluation at an urgent care or emergency facility is encouraged.

If someone has been cleared from a more life-threatening injury (such as a skull fracture or brain bleed) and they’re sent home from the emergency room, it is advised to incorporate relative brain rest into the plan of care for the first 24 to 48 hours.

Limitation of physical and cognitive stressors to regular activities of daily living – as long as those activities do not exacerbate symptoms – is key. Most often, concussion symptoms persist upwards of seven to 14 days before full resolution. However, they can have a varied trajectory of improvement throughout that time.

Concussion symptoms can include cognitive slowing, emotional distress, headaches, nausea, dizziness, sleep disturbance, lack of energy, and sensitivity to light and noise.

If the symptoms persist or are intolerable, it is highly recommended to seek help from a physician who is well versed in concussion signs and treatment. Having a history of prior concussions, migraines, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, attention deficient disorder, dyslexia or a learning disability can be some of the factors that will prolong concussion symptoms.

Have a safe Mardi Gras season and laissez les bon temps rouler!

Dr. Aaron Karlin is physician specializing in Pediatric Medicine and Rehabiltation, Sports Medicine and Concussion Management. He practices at the Ochsner Health Center in Covington as well as St. Tammany Health System and the main campus of Ochsner Children’s Hospital in Jefferson. You can reach Ochsner Hospitals at 866-624-7637. To learn more about the Ochsner Concussion Management Program, visit digital.ochsner.org/ca-neuro-concussion/.