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Some important limits to ski helmet safety

There’s widespread agreement that wearing a helmet when you’re skiing or snowboarding is a wise precaution. Even adults who don’t wear them generally ensure that their kids have them on, whether a resort requires them or not. According to the National Ski Areas Association, almost 90 percent of kids wore a helmet during the 2015-16 ski season.

In a recent study, doctors looked at trauma registry data from a children’s hospital for over 500 kids who were admitted with skiing or snowboarding-related head injuries. Not surprisingly, those who had not been wearing helmets (just under half) suffered more serious injuries than those who were.

However, safety experts caution that while helmets protect the head against some severe injuries, they can’t prevent all of them. Some earlier studies have even linked helmets to a rise in injuries. It’s been speculated that the increased sense of security provided by a helmet can cause people to take more risks on the slopes.

A surgeon involved in the children’s hospital study notes, “Wearing a helmet is not going to prevent fatal injury.” However, he adds that “what it is going to do is lower the risk of sustaining a serious injury.” Helmets are most effective in reducing skull fractures and cuts. They may also limit the severity of concussions.

Helmets are one important precaution to take on the slopes, along with not skiing on advanced level runs that are above your skill level, not skiing too fast and looking out for obstacles like trees and other people. Most resorts and other ski areas are careful to keep their slopes as safe as reasonably possible for their skiers. However, if you believe that you or a loved one’s injury could have been prevented with better maintenance or supervision of the slopes, you may want to find out what your legal options are.

Source: Daily Camera, “Study: Helmets protect youths – but may invite risky runs,” John Ingold, Denver Post, Dec. 15, 2016

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