Nina Hoffmann Chose Not to Race in Leogang Following Concussion Symptoms

Jun 14, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  

Nina Hoffmann has revealed she chose not to race in Leogang due to some mental struggles she experienced after displaying symptoms of concussion prior to her race run.

Nina took a heavy spill on the morning of the race and was showing light symptoms of concussion but was cleared for finals after a visit to a physio. She went to warm up on the track but after realising she wasn't ready to race mentally, she decided to pull out 30 minutes before the race start.

Here's the full story in Nina's own words:

bigquotesFirst of all: I’m ok and I feel quite good today (way better than expected!).

What happened: I went for practice yesterday morning and was really motivated to bring down some good last runs before finals. Weather was good, track got dryer, body felt awesome. But I shouldn’t have fun that long. Right in the first part of the track 'the pink stone' took me out of the game. Got a massive kick on my backwheel and couldn’t avoid falling over the bars. They said I landed down in the berm, hands and head first

I totally destroyed my helmet - thanks Bluegrass for saving my head another time! I showed light symptoms of concussion (milliseconds of blackout, metallic taste, light dizziness), so my first reaction straight away was: I’m not gonna race! Then I went for physio to get checked (huge thank you to Laura Robson for everything ) and we got my body back in a good state - no dizziness, no blurry vision or sickness at all.

So one hour before my race run I felt like: YES, I can do that, I’m ready for it! Headphones on, up the hill and on the bike for warm up. During pedalling I went mentally through the track to get me ready to race, but when I came to the first stump section my heart rate popped up and I started to cry. I just realised: Nope, you’re not ready for that! Your body can’t handle this gnarly track right now. You haven’t done one full practice run at all this morning. You don’t even know how the lower wood section will look like! Nina, you’re so stupid, stop doing this! Yep, and then I stopped.

You can’t imagine what a strange feeling it was to step into the gondola downwards... I know it was the right decision, I don’t regret it at all. But it’s crazy that it took me till the last 30mins before my race run to finally make that decision. A completely new feeling, which I never had before. But I’m somehow glad that I experienced that. These are the moments that make you stronger. I want to thank everyone who supported me yesterday during these hours! Especially Jenbike.

Next plan? Take it easy and listen to the body. Drive to Innsbruck for Crankworx but decide on Thursday if I’m gonna race or just watch.
Nina Hoffmann

We commend Nina on taking the wise decision not to risk her health and we wish her a quick recovery from the crash. We have reached out to Nina for further comment and will update this story with her progress.


67 Comments

  • 158 0
 Great decision. I see it so often with people jumping straight back on at races and trying to just ride it out. The second hit is the one that will change your life forever. Rest up and come back stronger for next round.
  • 1 0
 Look at Sam Gaze before and after his head injury at the Cape Epic.
  • 1 0
 Cameron Mcadoo in supercross this year at Atlanta comes to mind as a counterpoint to this...and how the concussion was handled.. Multiple choices made throughout the process then he lined up and had that second crash. Now he's out for the season after another crash in mx...
  • 1 0
 You can't be too careful, even the first hit can ruin your life. I have a mate who smacked his head while skiing last year, and it made him basically unable to function. Weeks barely able to get out of bed, headaches, weakness, fatigue and a host of mental problems triggered by it including anxiety attacks and severe depression. He didn't manage a full day back at work for 8 months and he's still a complete mess. If you fall and hit your head, just walk or cruise out and take some time off. It's not risking that trip through hell.
  • 75 3
 It is a clever decision but it should not be the riders choice. A concussion protocol is a must in downhill too like in nfl and nba.
  • 6 2
 I'm sure we'd all agree on the "should", but what about the "could"?
Could it actually work in DH and what would it look like?
How would riders be compelled to report head-related injuries?
Who would administer?
Maybe there's a feature idea in this Pinkbike?
  • 6 3
 @chakaping: whats so hard about it? There are eyes all over the course. The sad thing is when you can see a guy get his sack ripped off filmed from 3 different angles and get no immediate medical attention OR first aid by anyone else. It really isn't complicated as long as athletes are more important than a result.
  • 4 0
 @RonSauce: You've just explained what's so hard about it. If medical provision for acute conditions such as Payet's (and not to mention Brook's back) is so patchy already, how will less-obvious conditions like concussion be effectively monitored and rules enforced?
I'm not saying it's not possible, just asking what it'd look like. I'm not sure expecting bystanders to report potential concussions is either realistic or adequate.
  • 15 0
 We have it at our club here in South Australia. It's a very simple if in doubt, sit it out rule. This was implemented after constant debates with riders and parents on whether they are fit to ride. Now they don't get a say unless the medics say so, or they provide a letter from their doctor. So any big hits that get reported the rider has to head to our medics and if there is any slight hint of cuncusion the rider is not allowed back on track. It really isn't that hard to implement and riders are pretty easy to chat to about it. They often start off annoyed but once we explain that it's not their decision, it's club rules, plus adding that they are putting huge risk on our club, their family and others they always agree that it makes total sense to sit it out. And although it can be hard to implement, with constant reminders to riders to look out for each other, having proper medics on track, photographers carrying radios and proper course marshaling the risk can be reduced significantly.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: i agree that it is hard to evaluate and at first sight not very objective. This is why concussion is so dangerous, but i think it could be safer. If a rider get a hit on the head than she/he should visit the doctor on site, plus you can use a cheap G sensor and set a threshold and there are a lot of cameras and event organizers on site so the riders hands are tied. Then there are multiple neurological exams in cuncussion diagnostics which can be implemented in DH racing too.
  • 13 1
 Maybe you missed the part where she was evaluated and cleared to race by an on site physio?
  • 5 1
 @Dudeclimbsrocks: no, i did not. But its not a big conussion protocol if a physio takes a look at her.
  • 2 0
 @Dudeclimbsrocks: I think the physio mentioned is employed for the races by Santa Cruz though. Who arguably have an interest in Nina racing.
While I'm sure the physio acted totally appropriately, I'm still not sure that equals a robust system of clinical governance.
Would be good to hear what the race medics & physios think, as I suggested above - it would make a worthwhile feature.
  • 3 0
 @galuska: A mulit axis g sensor would help. I'm no expert, but from a book I read it's very complicated: the g force for concussion in one direction is different than others, i.e. hitting the back of the head vs the side. And rotation plays a huge role. Plus everyone is different and g limit for a concussion would be averages at best. Having the type of multi axis g sensor[s] that measure x, y ,z and yaw, pitch, roll would generate a lot of useful data tho. Not sure if the sensors are cheap and more importantly, small/light enough yet to be integrated into helmets without making them too impractical or less safe. Anyone more up to date on accelerometer tech?
  • 9 1
 Uuhh, the article clearly stated she had to pass a concussion protocol. She then decided her head space wasn't right to charge a WC track. Comment makes no sense.
  • 3 0
 Yet another reason they need a rider's union. One reason it works like that in NFL and NBA is that they have some collective bargaining power as well as some guarantees on contract for professional athletes. In the cutthroat world of professional MTB, you're only as good as your last race. So, even if you're on a "supportive" team, you always feel that your contract is in jeopardy and you may get discarded and lose your livelihood if you don't go out and perform.

The culture of MTB and its relationship with its athletes needs to change. I think that article series that PB did on athlete pay and attitude toward injury/health care costs was a great step in the right direction.
  • 6 0
 @galuska: A physio should stick to his stuff- concussion symptoms and other brain related injuries are not his profession.

If she gets a pass from a neurologist- fair enough.
  • 1 0
 @NotNamed: exactly, i was meant to write this.

I googled wheter the UCI has a protocol on concussion and it does have (sort of). From 2021 the non medical staff is prepared to evaluate a concussion and if they notice symptoms then they report it and the racers need further examination and rest time. Its not the safest, nor the most sophisticated protocol but they started to take it more serious.
  • 3 0
 @NotNamed: Physios are not ER doctors so maybe should not be the ones making emergency treatment decisions, but physiotherapists definitely do work with neurological and brain injuries.
  • 1 0
 None of this makes any sense. How can you even be able to organise a world cup race without an on site standby race physician just for legal liability's sake?

I can already imagine the press release. "Yeah, they thought they could do the race, so who are we to say no, right haha?"
  • 1 0
 I agree 100% there needs to be an independent neuro there to make the determination....but Case Keenum is a great example of the NFL's system totally failing a player a few years ago.
  • 1 0
 @acrowe: True but the Problem with a lot of brain damages is that you wont see sidd effects on the outsidd- and when you see them the person is in life treathening danger.

A physio doesnt scan your head etc - I dont get it why a physio gives her a go- that surely not work done "lege artis"
  • 29 0
 Wise move. The brain is a fragile thing. Look at Reece, he took the rest of the season off last year. Better to be safe than risk the rest of your life for riding a bike down a hill, no matter what the stage is.
  • 15 0
 DH racing badly needs some established medical protocols for concussion, back injury, neck injury etc. The lack of provision and protocol trackside and in terms of extraction from the mountain is showing up time and time again in recent years.
  • 11 1
 We need to start asking helmet manufacturers to put simple impact gauges in helmets - you know the type the used on mythbusters to tell how many g's a hit was.... protocol would then be over X figure its a check up, over Y its a sit out and Z its a hospital trip.... I've had multiple concussions over the years from bike crashes and wish I had taken more time to recover instead of pretending it didn't happen
  • 3 0
 Would like to have some input from a company like @KaliProtectives on this. Would a sensor like this provide a decent first indication or is it still all over the place. From what I understand, it are the oblique impacts that do most harm. But how would a sensor distinguish that from a straight impact? Plus, if it is about the acceleration of the head (not the helmet shell), would it be something the helmet could even measure? Not meant to be sceptical, more to pick up an idea from the comment section and trying to invite some expert views on (which I trust Kali for, but sure there must be others). Tests only work if people trust them, after all. How reliable is such a system compared to the rider's perception (which isn't too great) or to the basic tests performed by a trained course marshall (which should be better). If it is promising then yeah by all means develop it and make it public (possibly a crowd funding campaign could work?) instead of make it one more proprietary system. Gravity mountainbiking may not even be such a huge market, but there are more helmet sports where more money is made and lost. I recently read in the news that this self proclaimed greatest country in the world scrapped the notion that a black athlete's brains would be worth less than a white athlete's brains so they've some catching up to do repaying some athletes with football induced brain trauma. Which inherently implies it is actually worth more money up front to prevent brain trauma in the first place.

www.cbsnews.com/news/nfl-race-norming-settlements
  • 36 0
 I work for TLD and I've gone to a few events with these types of meters in hand to test on our athletes. One type was a bonnet/beanie sort of thing and another was a module I attached to helmets, thankfully the meters were not needed at those events I tested! I did leave them with athletes to take home and they did get 'used'.

Problem was, they did not measure rotational forces, they measured linear g-forces (and poorly at that) and as we have learned (and we are still learning) rotational forces are assumed to cause the bulk of concussion symptoms in the brain. We are still testing these devices, but to the best of my knowledge, none really do what we need them to do-yet.

I agree with many commenters on here in that we commend Nina and the people around her to help her make the wise decision not to race.

I also agree racing needs better protocol in the future-but hey, watch supercross, they have 'protocols' and they have 'medical staff on track' and too often someone that should NOT be racing gets cleared.

I have been embedded in MTB racing since the late 80's, and I will say, if anything we have come a long way in acceptance of riders/teams/staff that choose to be wise and NOT compete after concussion-or any injury. For so long, I watched (myself included) people tell an athlete "shake it off, get back out there" and that attitude is slowly disappearing and that is great.

My wife (MTB legend Leigh Donovan) I recall, mt snow vermont, she was leading the norba DH points and slalom overalls, she crashed in practice (99 or 2000 I think) and hit her head hard, couldnt see out of one eye for a moment, head ache, etc classic concussion symptoms. She 'recovered' before the finals but crashed again and that memory haunts me because all of us (and the athletes) just were trained to shake it off, get back out there and it was a mistake.

We have made a lot of progress in mentality, technology, but still lots of room for improvement. Get well Nina-the sport needs people like you and thank you for telling the fans that it's ok to step away from a race for the sake of good mental health.
  • 2 0
 Locating the sensor in the helmet: the helmet is doing everything it can not to transfer the forces it experiences interfacing with the ground to the wearer. So a helmet-mounted sensor hypothetically could accurately report the forces imparted to the helmet, but what we want to know is the forces imparted to the wearer. I know they never caught on as a very popular piece of protective gear in MTB, but I think something like a mouth guard which is stationary and closer to the center of the head might be a better non-invasive site for sensors for DH, slalom, BMX, slopestyle
  • 12 0
 I fell hard skiing early last year.. I felt symptoms for 8months
  • 5 0
 Wow healing vibes mate
  • 5 0
 Back in the day, when no helmet was the only cool option, I went snowboarding and got a decent hit to my head ... to make it worse, young and dumb I went drinking with the mates in the evening. I only had minor symptoms (headache, etc. that I attributed to the booze). A week later, the first time i had to write a longer text, I noticed that something with my handwriting was off. I could not write certain words in one try, and it took more than 2 years for that to disappear. That was scary as f*ck. Take good care of your head, this ain´t a game!
  • 2 0
 Oh, and wishing you all the best dude!
  • 9 0
 Good decision! So glad concussions are getting the attention they deserve now. So many races in your life but you've got only one body and brain to race them. Better sacrifice one race than sacrifice one brain!
  • 9 1
 The UCI needs to put a neurologist or similar on site for every event. Anytime a rider shows concussion symptoms, for 1 minute or for 1 hour, they are pulled from the event. Your brain is injured. You should be sitting out. The racers on trade teams should all undergo baseline testing too. If they hit their head, they are tested against these baselines. This is not all that hard, every other sport has figured it out. Good job Nina, but it should not rest on the athlete. There are many objective ways to keep athletes more safe following a blow to the head.
  • 3 0
 I was thinking the same thing. Require all racers to complete and submit their baseline testing score prior to the season. Then you have data to help inform the decision on if they should return to play or not.
  • 2 0
 The problem is we now know what these racers make. They are still being paid like they are disposable, its obvious companies aren't investing money in their athletes like bigger sports. Imagine suffering a life changing injury for a job that pays less than McDonald's.
  • 2 0
 I hit my head last winter skiing and did a bit of googling to see what the recommended guidelines. What I read seemed to indicate that if there was any loss of consciousness the recommendation is minimum 2 weeks off from any activity where you could hit your head, and not returning to those activities until you've had at least 1 week of no symptoms. We've all seen articles recently of the dangers of having a second concussion before the first one heals.
  • 10 0
 Smart move Nina, much love and respect!
  • 7 0
 So glad that riders like K Courtney and Nina are taking it upon themselves to change the culture around concussions.
  • 6 0
 I’m happy to hear Nina is ok!

How do you have concussion symptoms that severe in the morning and get cleared to race the same day? Whatever ‘protocol’ they are using is either useless or not being adhered to by medical staff.
  • 6 0
 Good for her. Thats a courageous decision. It sounds like what she was doing with the PT might be close to a concussion screen, but I totally agree that it should be a independent concussion panel that can treat all racers.
  • 5 0
 Not the best decission of the physio of leting Nina clear for racing even after mild head injury. She should not train this day or race. The treamtent is rest, avoiding stress and sleep. Any other possible head injury during the race might have much worse consequences. Happy for Nina of making the right choice.
  • 3 1
 lmao you speak like a physio diagnostic is acceptable. it's a fucking joke that they rely on a physio for such things
  • 4 0
 Making assumptions about the physio's capability like this is not helpful. I've just spent 18 months recovering from concussion. I saw probably 10 different professionals, including 2 neurologist's, 3 physio's, osteopath, concussion therapist... It was the last physio I saw that understood and helped me recover from my injury.
  • 8 0
 What a rock star and what a strong person to make a call like that and walk away positive!
  • 8 0
 Good decision! You will get back don’t hurry
  • 5 0
 Very happy to take a Zero on my fantasy team. Smart move on her part. There should be impartial health care professionals helping riders make these decisions.
  • 5 0
 Good on her for having the foresight not to do a race run and chapau for speaking out about it too.
  • 6 0
 Good display of emotional intelligence.
  • 1 0
 Reading her statement, it sounds more like her confidence was shaken quite a bit... Maybe she would have been ok if she got a lap in between the crash and her race run... When you look at risk vs rewards, I think she made a smart decision.. Plenty of places on that course that could seriously hurt you if you aren't on your game. Missing one race is better than missing a whole season or worse...
  • 3 0
 I got a minor concussion pre-race, shook it off and raced, and ended up off the bike over 6 months. Respect to Hoffmann for being less of a dumbass than me.
  • 3 0
 Missing one race to be a whole person for the rest of your life is a tough decision but definitely the right one!
  • 2 0
 All the best Nina. Come back (for a win) as soon as possible. Ich liebe dich. Bisou!
  • 2 0
 She made the right choice. Healing vibes, Nina. Come back when you feel ready.
  • 1 0
 Look up Cameron McAdoo crash at Atlanta. they cleared him to race afterwards as well. He wasn't right for the next 2 races.
  • 2 0
 Right choice. Well done Nina.
  • 2 0
 downhill is so dangerous
  • 1 0
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