Every year, 10 million Americans ski or snowboard – with approximately 600,000 injuries reported, 20 percent of which are head injuries, the chief cause of death among skiers and snowboarders.
A new study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine adds to the mounting medical evidence showing that ski helmets do save lives and prevent serious brain damage.
In “Helmets Save Lives of Skiers and Snowboarders,” the authors find that ski helmets are effective tools for preventing head injuries:
“There really is a great case to be made for wearing helmets,” says Adil H. Haider, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the leader of the study…. “By increasing awareness and giving people scientific proof, we hope behavior changes will follow.’
At Fletcher Allen and the University of Vermont College of Medicine, we are raising awareness by sponsoring programs like PHAT (Protect your Head at All Times), a non-profit program that promotes the use of helmets in all sports where head injury is a serious risk. We are proud to have a growing number of Vermont partners joining together in our effort.
Many medical researchers and public health advocates, like us, have been frustrated by the slow pace of helmet adoption, due in part to the persistence of outdated and disproven concerns that helmet use would cause neck injuries or promote more aggressive skiing and riding.
Dr. Haider answers those claims:
Haider says some skiers have long argued that wearing a helmet on the slopes lowers visibility, hampers the ability to hear what is going on around them and encourages risky behavior, because they feel invincible. Some skiers have also suggested that wearing a helmet increases the torque and whiplash felt when a skier does go down, making neck and cervical spine injury more likely. “These are all just excuses,” Haider says. “Our research shows none of those theories hold water.”
Of course, helmets won’t prevent other injuries and not even all head injuries so the first rule in safe skiing and riding is to always ski in control. However, ski helmets will save lives and prevent needless suffering. Don’t just take our word for it, read the title again – Helmets Save Lives of Skiers and Snowboarders.
Fletcher Allen also has a dedicated phone line for injured skiers and ski patrol to call in the event of a ski-related musculoskeletal injury. Please call us at 802-847-7479.
Robert Williams, MD, is an anesthesiologist at Fletcher Allen Health Care and an associate professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.