Samantha Riordan, a graduate student in the University of Montana’s athletic training program, helped a young boy fit a pair a specially-made goggles over his eyes and pulled the elastic band over the back of his head to hold them in place.
The goggles were made to simulate the way a concussion can make a person’s vision go blurry.
“Usually kids will describe it as being in a fog, and that’s pretty close to what people report feeling after a concussion,” Riordan said.
Riordan and her classmates were at one of the tables set up at this year’s Safe Kids Fair, held at Community Medical Center on Sunday.
Once kids put on the goggles, Riordan and the other UM students had them try to balance on one foot or play a series of small puzzles.
“All of those fine motor skills just become that much more difficult when your sight is compromised,” Riordan said.
She said it’s important not only for players and coaches to understand the signs of a concussion, but parents as well; otherwise they might not know what to look for once their child is home after a game. Indicators include light and noise sensitivity and increasingly painful headaches.
Six-year-old Ashley Kallen said trying to balance with the goggles on made her start to feel sick.
“I need to be careful. I wouldn’t want to have to walk around like that,” she said.
Even though the fair has been an annual event in Missoula for about 20 years, Safe Kids Missoula coordinator Dannette Fadness said every year the fair adds some new elements. This year she was most excited about a series of tables called the “sports clinic” that focused on child safety during sports and other physical activity. UM’s athletic training program was one of the booths in that group.
Providence St. Patrick Hospital donated 80 children’s bicycle helmets to the fair, and Fadness said every kid who visited all of the sports clinic tables received one for free.
Another new feature this year was a station on distracted driving. Larchmont Golf Course let the fair borrow a pair of golf carts, and Fadness said participants were able to take turns driving them through an obstacle course they had set up. The first time they would complete a timed lap without any distractions, the second lap they would be asked to try to do it while texting to one of the fair volunteers.
“You compare those two times and a lot of people are pretty surprised at just how much slower they are,” Fadness said.
The fair covered many of the more commonplace child safety areas, but had information on very specific ones as well. One poster showed the rates of children injured and killed by televisions tipping over, saying that a child dies every three weeks in the United States from a TV falling on them. In addition, almost 13,000 child injuries from televisions tipping over are reported every year, up almost a third over the last decade.
Charmell Owens, director of the Ravalli County Prevention Coalition, showed families a wrecked car that had been in a rollover accident, specifically pointing out the section around the front seats where the frame had mostly maintained its original shape.
“Most high-impact crashes are rollover crashes,” she said. “We call this room to live. It can keep people alive if they are wearing their seatbelts."
The red Pontiac once belonged to a friend of Missoula man Jeremy Lugibihl, who was killed while a passenger in the car during in a rollover crash in 2007. Lugibihl had been ejected because he hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt.
After the wreck, the totaled car was donated to the Montana Department of Transportation to help teach kids about seatbelt usage and the dangers of motor vehicle accidents. The exhibit recently transferred ownership to the Missoula City-County Health Department, which is planning to continue to use it as a touring display, said Lonie Hutchison, coordinator for the Missoula/Granite County Buckle Up Montana Coalition.
Partway through the event, a medical helicopter from Northwest MedStar landed near the fair and the pilots and paramedics let kids climb inside to see all the tools and gear the crew uses on a day-to-day basis.
The Safe Kids fair was one of the events that are being held in Missoula in conjunction with National Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month. The Missoula County Prescription Drug Task Force says that four percent of Montana eighth, 10th and 12th grade students have reported using a prescription drug without a doctor’s permission in the past month, and that 43 percent of all emergency room visits across the country are because of children accidentally using medications they shouldn’t.
The task force has set up a no-questions-asked prescription medication drop off at the Missoula Police Department at 435 Ryman St., and has put together the website choicesmattermissoula.com with more information about proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs.