Ski helmets: isn’t it time we all wore one on the slopes?

brokehelAn interesting article from the Telegraph ski editor, “You know it makes sense”

In the aftermath of Michael Schumacher’s tragic accident, it does beg the   question why on earth wouldn’t you wear a helmet when skiing or   snowboarding?

It might seem a given, especially when you consider Schumacher’s helmet   reportedly broke in two on impact. According to Chris Chandler, consultant   neurosurgeon at King’s College in London, it may have “minimised the   severity of injury.” That’s putting it mildly, Schumacher would most   probably have been pronounced dead on the scene had he not been wearing   one.

A recent study from brain injury charity Headway announced the findings of a   study using crash test dummies to examine the potential benefits of helmets   for skiers and snowboarders. The results showed that forces exerted on the   skull were “four times less” when head protection was worn. A helmet’s liner   absorbs a proportion of the impact; the acceleration of the head is reduced;   and the impact on the skull is spread over a larger area.

The sticky problem is that there is no official evidence showing that since   more people started wearing helmets, the number of head injuries have   decreased. Some skiers and snowboarders simply do not wish to wear one as   they claim it feels restrictive or limits their sense of freedom when flying   down the slopes. Others suggest that wearing one emboldens you to go faster   and be more reckless. There might be some truth in this but it’s very hard   to prove. Personally I would rather err on the side of the caution and wear one. Surely   having your head encased in a protective layer has got to be a good thing   should you hit a rock-hard piste, collide with someone else or hit an   immovable object such as a tree. I’d never dream of going mountain biking –    one of my other favoured pursuits – without a helmet so why would I consider   skiing or snowboarding without one? These sports are similarly risky though   it’s important to keep things in perspective – the risk overall of injury on   the slopes has remained unchanged in recent years at around 2.5 per thousand   skiers.

As a parent I would never allow my children (both under five years old) to go   skiing without wearing a helmet. I want them to have that extra layer of   protection – what parent wouldn’t – and would feel I was acting   irresponsibly if I didn’t give it to them. What sort of example would I be   setting if I didn’t wear one too?

My personal conversion to helmets came after a week’s learning to snowboard in   Morzine, banging my head on the piste one too many times. In the following   years I was very thankful to have been wearing one when on separate   occasions I skied into a tree, slid down a bumps run and was knocked off my   feet by a rogue skier. None of the incidents were life-threatening but the   helmet helped prevent one or two nasty bumps and headaches.

To me wearing a helmet is now second nature as it is to increasing numbers of   slope users, some 80 per cent in North America, about 50 per cent in Europe.   Following Schumacher’s accident I’d imagine many more will follow suit. It’s   the responsible decision to take.

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