According to an article in the New York Times “Wear a Helmet When Hitting the Slopes,” studies have concluded that helmets reduce the risk of a serious head injury by as much as 60 percent. But a surprising number of safety experts and snow sports enthusiasts remain unconvinced that helmets reduce overall injury risk.”
Indeed, the article states that “40 percent of skiers and snowboarders avoid helmets.” But why is this?
“There is a direct and clear correlation between the reduction of head injuries during winter sports and the use of helmets. I try my best to twist the arm of my own children to make sure they wear their helmets when skiing to prevent head injuries,” says Pen Bay orthopaedic surgeon Joseph F. Scordino, MD.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends helmet use for individuals of all ages participating in sledding, skiing, snowboarding and all other winter sports. The purpose of the helmet is to partially absorb the force and dissipate the energy of blunt trauma in an effort to protect the head. While helmets do not decrease the risk of injury, they can decrease the severity. While some feel that helmets reduce peripheral vision and hearing, a 2011 National Institutes of Health study proved that this is not the case: helmets did not obstruct peripheral vision and reaction times.
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), during the last decade, there were about 40 deaths per year as a result from downhill skiing/snowboarding accidents in the United States. Of those fatalities, only eight people (20 percent) involved were reported to be wearing helmets at the time of injury.
“Consider your family’s safety and avoid the potential for serious head trauma — wear a helmet,” cautions Joseph F. Scordino, MD.
Joseph F. Scordino, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon at Pen Bay Medical Center.