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How safe are ski helmets?
Friday April 11, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

More and more people wear helmets and sales shot up after the accident of Michael Schumacher. Questions though are being asked about exactly how much protection they offer.

A recent article in the New York Times revealed some disturbing figures.

It quoted figures released from the National Ski Areas Association that although the number of people that wear a helmet has tripled in the last decade to 70% there has been no decrease in the number of deaths or brain injuries on the slopes.

The paper reports that helmets only really offer protection at low speeds.

It pointed out that the behavior of skiers and snowboarders has changed; whether it be greater use of fun parks or more off piste skiing.

It also surmised that people wearing a helmet might ski faster or more aggressively as they believe a helmet would protect them in the case of an accident.

It is an issue we have written about on PlanetSKI in the past - see here for an in-depth article from our reporter, James Timothy.

In some quarters there is an almost a religious zeal about wearing a ski helmet. 

It obviously offers a degree of protection but here at PlanetSKI we do not believe it is as simple as that.

Figures show there has been a decrease in minor injuries, such as cuts and bumps, by 30%.

However the lack of a fall in serious head injures perhaps means people should question how much protection they offer.

Doctors say that Michael Schumacher's life was saved by wearing a helmet, but others point out that it did not offer protection from serious injury in what was a failry low-speed accident.

"The helmet does a very good job at protecting against skull lacerations and skull fractures, but it doesn't seem to have much effect on concussions or traumatic brain injuries," said Jasper Shealy, a professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology, to the New York Times.

The newspaper also reports on 2 studies that show that head injuries have actually gone up.

A study from the Western Michigan University School of Medicine claims the number of head injuries increased 60% in a seven-year period, from 9,308 in 2004 to 14,947 in 2010.

Another study, by the University of Washington, concluded that the number of young people suffering a head injury from 1996 to 2010 had increased 210%.

It is food for thought.

See here for more details of the article.

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