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Stay Safe on the Slopes:
Ski Helmets - Protect Your Head

18 DEC 2014 - BY JOSEPH TYSON

The debate on ski helmets is a very divisive one. Some people are adamant they make no difference; others won't get on the slopes without one.

Generally, the latter viewpoint now seems to be the growing trend with recent research from America's National Ski Areas Association finding that 67 per cent of skiers now wear one as opposed to 25 per cent back in 2003.

In actual fact, the chances of sustaining a head injury while skiing are very slim, with the Telegraph reporting that only 20 per cent of incidents relate to the head and an even smaller amount within this are of a severe nature.

However, wearing a helmet does give you extra protection in the event of a general fall, so it's always better to head out with one on than without.

Headway, a brain injury charity, conducted an experiment using crash dummies to test the protection ski helmets offered. It found that when a helmet was worn the force of impact exerted on the skull was four times less than when safety headgear was worn.

It also found that the impact is spread over a larger area of the skull and that the liner in the helmet absorbs some of the trauma. Research from the Canadian Medical Association backed up this study by saying that "helmets reduce the risk of head injury among skiers and snowboarders".

Research from the British Medical Journal also found that wearing a helmet does reduce the likelihood of a general head injury by around 35 per cent, further adding to the case for wearing one.

However, there is as yet no hard evidence to suggest that helmets limit the amount of serious head injuries out on the slopes, which is where the debate stems from.

Whatever the stance you take on helmets, wearing one will only enhance your chance of protection should you hit your head and so you should always wear one when skiing.

Ski helmet child

For families - lead by example

Parents taking their kids to the slopes for the first time need to stress the importance of safety when skiing but in a way that's cool and fun. Many slopes in Europe insist on children wearing helmets, but it is a good idea to encourage children so that they want to wear one, not so they feel they have to.

Whether renting or buying, let your little ones choose their own helmets, that way they can take pride in the one they have selected.

Also, make a point of wearing yours and also if you have older children - that the younger ones look up to - make sure they are wearing theirs at all times too.

The Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that although the amount of children wearing helmets was already high, children were 9.55 per cent more likely to wear one if they saw their parents doing so.

families lead by example wear helmet

Incidents in the news

Perhaps the most famous incident relating to the helmet debate in recent news is that of Michael Schumacher, who sustained a very serious head injury while skiing in Meribel last year.

The former Formula 1 champion spent months in a coma and has only just been able to leave hospital after his head struck a rock in a skiing accident.

Schumacher was wearing a helmet and doctors have said if he hadn't been, he would have almost certainly been killed by the impact.

Reasons some people don't wear them

Although for some, the reason for not wearing a helmet is down to the absurd notion that it doesn't "look cool", there are other reasons why skiers opt not to wear them.

Some claim that a helmet restricts peripheral vision; others say that it lulls wearers into a false sense of security while some believe it restricts a person's hearing.

Whatever the reasons given, there can be no debate that wearing a hard, cushioned safety helmet can't hinder your chances of escaping injury so be smart, wear yours this ski season.

Further advice from across the internet

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/snowandski/10201508/Ski-helmets-and-safety-should-I-wear-one.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/06/should-i-wear-a-helmet-ski-slopes
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16715883

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