I recently returned from a family ski trip for spring break, and I was very encouraged by what I observed that week on the slopes. I started skiing in the 1970s when the equipment wasn’t nearly as good as it is today (and neither were the fashions). One of the biggest changes in equipment that I have noticed is the prevalence of helmets being worn by skiers and snowboarders of all ages. Even in the past several years there has been a significant increase in the numbers of people participating in snow sports who wear protective headgear. The 2014 story aired on NPR, it was reported that more than two thirds of Americans who participate in snow sports wear helmets.
However, I was surprised by the number of adults who were helmetless, yet their children were wearing helmets. On one long ride up the lift, I had the opportunity to sit with an internist and her spouse – neither of whom were wearing helmets. Here was a medical professional who knew the risks of head injury, and had helmets for her children, but did not think that wearing a helmet was important for mom and dad. In chatting with a couple they were in agreement that whole family should’ve been helmeted, but for whatever reason it was an expense that was not included in their planning for the trip. Moreover, when they arrived at the ski rental shop, all of the helmets were rented. They were surprised to learn that they could’ve outfitted everyone in the family with helmets for less than $50 ahead.
The availability and relative low cost of helmets for children and adults have made them an indispensable accessory on the slopes. A quick look online revealed dozens of options ranging from $35-$200 for most of the models I’ve reviewed. So from the perspective of affordability, there’s really no reason why any participants in snow sports should not wear a helmet.
In the community of researchers and clinicians who deal with sports related head injuries, there is little debate about the effectiveness of helmets and preventing relatively minor head injuries, like those involved in minor/slow speed falls and strikes from polls or branches, and skull fractures. But there is a debate as to whether helmets prevent serious brain injuries that result from concussions and bruised or bleeding brain tissue. However, research published in November 20121 concluded that the use of safety helmets “clearly decreases the risk and severity of head injuries as compared to non-helmeted participants in skiing and snowboarding.” The authors further stated that “helmets are strongly recommended during recreational skiing and snowboarding.”
As we become more and more aware of the consequences of head injury, we need to take advantage of the technologies available to help us reduce our risk. Helmets are also becoming more prevalent in cycling, equestrian sports, and motor sports. Helmets are no replacement for common sense but they are an added measure of protection against unforeseen events.
If you’ve experienced a head injury, or someone in your circle of influence has, we’d love to talk about ways that we can help to reduce postconcussion symptoms and remediate the symptoms associated with head injuries. Don’t hesitate to call one of our certified Brain Health Coaches for free 15 minute phone consult about how we might help you.
Call 817-295-8708 today.
1 Haider, A. H., Saleem, T., Bilaniuk, J. W., & On behalf of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma Injury control / Violence Prevention Committee, R. D. (2012). An Evidence Based Review: Efficacy of Safety Helmets in Reduction of Head Injuries in Recreational Skiers and Snowboarders. The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 73(5), 1340–1347. http://doi.org/10.1097/TA.0b013e318270bbca
Written by Wes Center, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, BCPCC, BCN
Clinical Director of Brain & Behavior Associates