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Shred Those Slopes Safely-with a Helmet

< Dec. 05, 2012 > -- If falling snow has you yearning for the slopes, don't forget to take your helmet. A new study confirms that wearing one while skiing or snowboarding is the best way to protect yourself from a serious head injury. Such simple safety equipment may even save your life.

Photo of kids on skis

Safety comes first

About 600,000 injuries occur on the slopes each year in the U.S. Of those, about 20 percent involve the head. Nearly a quarter of head injuries result in loss of consciousness, concussion, or more serious trauma.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed 16 studies on helmet and ski safety. They found that wearing a helmet while on the slopes not only lowers the risk for head injury, but it also reduces the severity of such an injury should it occur.

"There really is a great case to be made for wearing helmets," says study leader Adil Haider, M.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "By increasing awareness and giving people scientific proof, we hope behavior changes will follow."

No excuse for no helmet

Wearing a helmet should be a no-brainer. But some slope enthusiasts claim it can interfere with their sight and hearing as they ski down the hill. They also contend that wearing a helmet boosts risky behavior because it provides a false sense of security. Some skiers and snowboarders believe, too, that a helmet can increase their chances of suffering a neck or spinal injury.

"These are all just excuses. Our research shows none of those theories hold water," says Dr. Haider. Experts recommend that all skiers and snowboarders, regardless of age or expertise, wear a helmet.

When choosing a helmet, get one that is designed specifically for skiing or snowboarding. Be sure that it's safety certified. Also make certain the helmet fits properly; it should be comfortable and snug.

This study was published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

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Ski and Snowboard Safety Tips

Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you still need to take certain precautions to stay safe on your skis or snowboard. Follow these guidelines to have more fun on the slopes:

  • Use the right equipment. Whether buying or renting, choose skiing or snowboarding equipment that's in good shape and of good quality, and that fits you properly. Protect yourself with a helmet; goggles; shin, wrist, and arm guards, as needed, and gloves that fit properly. Ski boots and bindings should be checked and adjusted by a ski professional, but you should always double check your bindings before you head down the slope.

  • Pay attention. Keep a close eye on the trail, and stay on course-on courses designed for your skill level. Be on the lookout for dangerous ice.

  • Pace yourself. Start out the day with a few slow, easy runs to warm up. Remember not to push yourself too hard or try a course that's beyond your skill level-and always snowboard or ski with a buddy. When you feel tired or if your muscles feel weak, take a break.

  • Stay hydrated. Skiing can burn 600 calories an hour, and you may lose body fluids through perspiration without realizing it. Drink plenty of fluids when you're on the slopes all day, but avoid alcohol. In addition to eating a nourishing breakfast and lunch, you might want to pack healthy snack bars in a parka pocket.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Association of Neurological Surgeons - Sports-Related Head Injury

CDC - Concussion in Winter Sports

Consumer Product Safety Commission - Which Helmet for Which Activity?