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Should Helmets Be Mandatory for Skiers and Snowboarders?

February 15th, 2011

Serious snow-sport injuries are quite rare, thank heavens. But a new study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that if skiers and snowboarders are required to wear helmets, injuries could be reduced even further.

Every year, approximately 12,000 people go to the hospital with a head injury due to snow sports. There are about 40 fatalities annually. Experts have been trying to find a way to reduce those numbers as much as possible, and the most compelling suggestion is to make helmets mandatory.

We know that wearing safety helmets for motorcycling and bicycling provide effective protection against head and brain injuries, so it seems logical that a skiing helmet could provide effective protection against head and brain injuries in many types of skiing-related incidents involving head impact. Research supports that logic.

The scientists examined injuries from 20 of the largest ski areas in Quebec, Canada, during the 2001-2002 winter ski season (November through April). During those six months, there were 4,377 injuries. Of those, 1,082 were head and neck injuries. The researchers followed up with the injured skiers to find out how the injury happened, whether they had been wearing a helmet, and the outcome of their injuries.

The results:

Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding may reduce the risk of head injury by 29% to 56%—that is, for every 10 people who wear helmets, three to six may avoid head injuries. This may even be an underestimate if, as in cycling, the helmets were worn incorrectly or were in poor condition, or were not designed for skiing or snowboarding.

The effect of helmet use on neck injuries was less clear, and there was some suggestion that helmet use increased the risk of neck injuries. More research will be needed to clear up that question.

At HensonFuerst, we see people whose lives have been permanently changed due to traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is a devastating injury. We’re in favor of measures that could reduce the risk of TBI. More research should be conducted to clarify the safety of helmets for all users, but it seems that the prudent action is to treat skiing and snowboarding like other fast-paced sports by wearing a helmet.

What do you think? Should helmets be mandatory for skiers and snowboarders?

To read the full journal article, click here: Effectiveness of Helmets

To learn more about TBI, visit our website at https://www.lawmed.com/. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.