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Do I Really Need a Helmet for Skiing?

 

Chris Salvino, MD, is a trauma surgeon at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.

Question: My mom suggested I purchase a helmet for my ski trip this weekend. Is a helmet really necessary for skiing? I mean, it’s just snow.

Answer: Injury to the brain is the main cause of serious injury and death among snowboarders and skiers. A summary of studies published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that head injuries accounted for 19 percent of all injuries seen by ski patrols and emergency departments, and that wearing helmets could have reduced the risk of head injury by more than a third. Helmets are not perfect and wearing them should not be an excuse to take risks; common sense should prevail in all sports.

Usage of helmets on the slopes has gone up dramatically in the past few years, in part due to the high profile deaths of celebrities Michael Kennedy, Sonny Bono and Natasha Richardson, who were killed in skiing accidents while not wearing helmets.

For some, strapping on a helmet is considered “cool” with the new light weight, comfortable and colorful helmets now available in stores. Many mountain bikers are also skiers and in that sport the majority of people wear helmets – so it is only natural that they would be comfortable with helmets on the slopes. The National Ski Areas Association says that almost 50 percent of all snowboarders and skiers are now wearing helmets. One group that appears to be resisting this trend is “old-time” skiers who probably think “why change now?”

As of yet, there are no known state laws requiring helmets on the slopes, but many resorts such as those in Vail, Colo. require helmets for all of their employees who work on the slopes and anyone under 12 who are participating in the resort ski schools.

Imagine bringing home eggs from the super market loosely in the paper bag; after doing that once, you would keep those eggs protected in their Styrofoam containers. Don’t treat your head with any less importance than you treat your eggs from a grocery store.

Submitted February 2010

Page Last Modified: 02/23/2010
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