Increasing Use of Ski Helmets Hasn’t Decreased Brain Injuries
Formula One driver Michael Schumacher was wearing a helmet when he went skiing at a resort in Méribel, France. However, he still suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell and hit his head on a rock in an un-groomed area.
According to the New York Times, although skiers and snowboarders are increasingly wearing protective helmets, the use of helmets has not led to a decrease in their fatalities or major brain injuries.
One research study showed no decline in concussions, skull fractures, closed head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and death due to head injuries because of helmet use.
Over 70% of skiers and snowboarders now wear helmets – nearly three times as many as a decade ago.
The lack of a reduction in injuries may be due to the inability of helmets to prevent severe head injuries like Schumacher’s. Injuries may also be due to riskier behavior by snowboarders and skiers.
The helmets may make people feel “safer” and thus actually encourage them to do things that are more likely to get them hurt.
Other studies suggest that injuries have actually increased along with helmet use.
A 2012 study by the Western Michigan University School of medicine showed that head injuries among skiers and snowboarders increased 60% from 2004 to 2010, even as helmet use increased about the same amount during that period.
A 2013 study by the University of Washington showed that ski slope injuries among young people increased 250% between 1996 and 2010.
70% of snow-sports-related deaths involve men in their late teens to late 30s.
The public is increasingly aware of athletes’ risk of brain injuries, due in part to news reports about brain injuries to football players and boxers.
New Jersey is the only state that requires helmet use by skiers and snowboarders, but the law only applies to children 17 and under.
Helmet use has led to a decrease in the number of minor injuries, such as cuts to the scalp, and may prevent deaths in some cases.