Headway of WNY, Inc.

A support and advocacy agency
for individuals with brain injuries,
disabilities and seniors.


Importance of Helmets

Skiing and snowboarding have always had an inherent risk component. Five to ten percent of injuries on the slopes are to the head, which can be devastating and lethal. Most severe head injuries occur from collisions with trees, lift poles or another skier.

Sports-related brain injuries account for approximately 300,000 injuries a year with winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and ice-skating comprising approximately 20,000 of those injuries.

Physical, cognitive, behavioral or emotional impairments, either transient or permanent, can be caused by Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Men are more likely to sustain a brain injury than women. The highest rate of brain injuries occurs in 55 to 24 year olds. 

No longer just for downhill racers, the helmet is an acceptable piece of protective gear. Five years ago almost no one wore a helmet and now it is estimated that 10 percent of skiers and boarders are wearing them.

Helmets are lightweight, warm, comfortable and provide the wearer peace of mind that they are doing the most to ensure a safe skiing or snowboarding experience.

In skiing and snowboarding traumatic brain injury is secondary to impact energy to the head transferred to the brain from a fall onto or collision with snow, rocks, trees, man-made objects or other skiers/snowboarders. The type and seriousness of the injury are dependent on many variables, such as the force of impact, the angle of impact in relation to the head and the protective features in place at the time of the injury. 

Helmets provide significant protection. They dramatically reduce forces applied to the skull and the brain and thus reduce the potential for traumatic brain injury. The outer shell of a helmet protects against penetration while the inner energy-absorbing liners reduce the forces that are transferred to the head. More recent helmets made with new materials, which provide even more protection.

In 1999, the Consumer Product Safety Commission published a position statement on the use of skiing helmets. It found that safety helmets for motorcycling and bicycling provide effective protection against head and brain injuries, including severe brain injuries. It is also reasonable to suggest from the bicycling and motorcycling experience that a skiing helmet that meets a suitable standard can provide effective protection against head and brain injuries in many types of skiing-related accidents involving head impact.

Children often view the world as a challenge. While some are extremely timid on the slopes, many others believe faster is better. Judgment is not always part of their decision-making process. However, one's behavior is the best protection against an accident, even while wearing a helmet. In other words, one should both ski responsibly and wear a helmet. Helmets are an effective tool for the prevention or reduction of injury from falls or impacts.

Resource: Brain Injury Resource Foundation.

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