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Helmets can prevent serious injury while having fun on the mountain.
Are you a beginner skier or snowboarder looking to hit the slopes? Before you do, it’s essential to understand the importance of wearing a helmet while participating in these sports.
Jerry Seinfeld put it best:
[W]e had to come up with the helmet law. [… T]he idea behind the helmet law being to preserve a brain whose judgment is so poor, it does not even try to avoid the cracking of the head it’s in.Jerry Seinfeld
If you are reading this, your brain and skull are in good working order. Let’s keep it that way by wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding.
The Risks of Not Wearing a Helmet
Skiing and snowboarding are both thrilling sports, but they can also be dangerous. The speed of skiing or snowboarding, plus hazards like ice, rocks, and trees, can be a recipe for disaster.
Participants are at risk for head injuries – particularly concussions and skull fractures without proper safety equipment, such as a helmet.
- Colliding with another skier or snowboarder
- Falling and hitting your head on the snow surface or ice
- Crashing into trees, rocks, or other obstacles on the slope
- Catastrophic landings after jumps or tricks
- Breaking of improperly installed or adjusted equipment like bindings.
- Misreading or missing warning signs or venturing into closed areas, which can lead to dangerous terrain or obstacles
- Skiing or snowboarding while mentally distracted
- Interactions with other skiers or boarders who are under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or drugs
- Being hit by a ski lift or other equipment on the mountain
- Falling ice from lifts or terrain
Head injuries can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries, leading to long-term physical and cognitive impairments – if not death!
No day on the slopes is worth permanent disability or death.
Thankfully, all of this is avoidable if you:
- Ski at a speed and difficulty appropriate to the conditions and your skill level
- Constantly be aware of what is around you, including other skiers and snowboarders.
- Plan your way down the run for the next 30 seconds in front of you
- Wear a helmet
Wearing a helmet is the only measure that protects you 100% of the time! This is why it is so important.
The Potential Consequences of Head Injuries
Head injuries can have severe and long-lasting consequences. Even a mild concussion can result in symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating. More severe head injuries can cause permanent brain damage, paralysis, or death.
Head injuries and their consequences/trauma can be hidden in the immediate aftermath of a collision. Our bodies and brains are amazing at keeping us going after immediate trauma.
Natasha Richardson, one of the celebrity examples later in this article, got up, refused treatment, and continued skiing but later died.
If you have any blow to the head, ask for help and get assessed by a medical professional. Ask the ski patrol or resort staff for help if you have had a head hit.
Having a blow to the head with a helmet will always have fewer consequences than hitting your bare head.
Head bonks should always be treated seriously with or without a helmet.
The Benefits of Wearing a Helmet
Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries. Helmets provide a protective layer that can absorb the impact of a fall or collision.
But helmet use is not all about safety. Ski helmets also help to keep the head warm, dry, and comfortable. They can represent your style and be an opportunity to personalize your gear.
- Protection from head injuries: The most important benefit of wearing a helmet is that it provides protection from head injuries, which can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries.
- Increases visibility: Some helmets have reflective or brightly colored materials, which can increase visibility and make it easier for other skiers or snowboarders to see you on the slopes.
- Improves hearing: Helmets are designed to fit snugly and securely, improving peripheral vision and hearing.
- Keeps head warm and dry: Helmets help keep the head warm and dry, preventing hypothermia and other cold-related injuries.
- Improves confidence: Wearing a helmet can give you more confidence and peace of mind, knowing you are protected from head injuries.
- Can be customized: Helmets come in a variety of colors, designs, and styles, which allows you to choose one that reflects your personal style and preferences.
- Promotes safe behavior: Wearing a helmet can set an excellent example for others and promote safe behavior on the slopes.
- Compliance with regulations: Many ski resorts and parks require that skiers and snowboarders wear helmets, which can help you comply with regulations and avoid penalties.
- Ski Helmets can be used for other activities: Helmets are not just for skiing and snowboarding – they can also be used for other activities such as biking, skateboarding, or rollerblading, providing protection in a variety of outdoor activities.
Real-Life Examples of Catastrophic Injuries That Helmets Could Have Prevented
Numerous real-life examples that illustrate the importance of wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding.
A number of celebrities have died on the slopes, and half have been because of traumatic brain injuries that may have been preventable with a helmet.
Here are some examples:
Accomplished British actress and wife of Liam Neeson died from blunt force trauma after falling while skiing at Mount Tremblant.
The unexpected can happen anywhere. Natasha was skiing the popular beginner run called Nansen, with easy grades and sweeping corners.
She downplayed the severity of her fall and refused to go to the hospital several times. Liam Neeson told 60 Minutes in 2014: “I spoke to her and she said, ‘Oh darling. I’ve taken a tumble in the snow.’ That’s how she described it.”
Mrs. Richardson was reportedly not wearing a helmet. She was 45 at the time and left her 12 and 13-year-old sons without a mother. Very tragic and potentially could have been avoided with a helmet.
The son of Robert F. Kennedy, Michael Kennedy, died while skiing in 1997 after he struck a tree in Aspen, Colorado.
He and his family members were tossing a football around while downhill skiing, and he lost control. He crashed and hit his head on a tree which caused a traumatic brain injury. He lost consciousness then and never recovered.
He was 39 at the time and left behind a wife, a son, and two daughters.
In 1999, I took a horrible spill without a helmet on a double-diamond run. I was lucky to not have a brain injury.
I was going down one of the expert-level side runs at Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada. The middle part of the run was extremely icy and steep, and I accelerated much faster than expected. I tried to come to an immediate stop when the hill flattened out, but my speed was too great, and I tumbled.
I broke my leg, both tibia and fibula, but I was lucky to not hit my head on the icy slope as I wasn’t wearing a helmet. The toque I was wearing wouldn’t have protected me at that speed.
The only thing that enabled me to continue living was God’s grace. I should have been more prepared and been wearing a helmet – and I have since.
Statistics about how helmets prevent injury on the slopes.
Over a decade in the United States, the National Ski Areas Association reports that there has been an average of 0.69 fatalities per one million skiers. In the 2018/2019 season, there were 42 reported fatalities, with most incidents resulting from collisions with other skiers, the snow surface, or trees.
A study in Canada saw a 29% reduction in the risk of any head injury with helmet usage, and a 56% reduction in severe head injuries. In Norway, they saw a 60% reduction in head injuries.
Common misconceptions about wearing helmets.
Helmets promote risk-taking. Multiple studies have shown no increase in risky behaviors when comparing riders with helmets vs. no helmets.
Helmets are uncomfortable. Some may argue that helmets are uncomfortable or impede one’s ability to hear or see on the slopes. However, modern helmets are designed to be lightweight and comfortable, and they often have
Helmets are hot and stuffy. Someone may worry that a helmet will make skiing or boarding less fun because their head will be hot and humid inside their helmet. This is not what most people experience. Almost all helmets have built-in ventilation systems to keep the head cool and dry. Some are adjustable – like the vents on your car.
Helmets will shift and block your vision. Helmets are designed to fit snugly and securely to work effectively. They also work with your goggles, holding them in place and improving peripheral vision.
In conclusion, wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding is essential for protecting against head injuries.
With proper equipment and safety precautions, you can enjoy these thrilling sports while minimizing your risk of injury.
So don’t forget to strap on your helmet before hitting the slopes!