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Helmet Use In Skiing, Snowboarding Limits Risks Of Injury

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Wearing helmets can save lives and reduce the risk of head injuries in people who go skiing and snowboarding, according to research.

The findings also counter a general belief that helmets give those who wear them a false sense of protection which encourages riskier skiing and snowboarding and increases the risk of injury.

Researchers led by Adil Haider from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed in detail 16 published studies on injury in recreational skiers and snowboarders and found that wearing helmets reduces the risks of injury and death for those taking to the slopes.

The findings, published in last month’s issue of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, highlight the case for a shift in behaviour to include this simple precautionary step when practising winter sports.

Some skiers and snowboarders avoid using helmets on the grounds that it limits their ability to see and hear. Others say wearing helmets encourages risky behaviour and increases the risk of neck and spinal injuries.

However, the new study shows that none of this is true and these are just excuses for not using helmets, Haider said. Helmets not only lower the risk of head injuries but reduce their severity, according to the research.

Skiing and snowboarding injuries total about 600,000 a year in the US. Among those, 20% are head injuries which mostly occur when skiers or snowboarders hit trees, the ground or other inanimate objects. Of the head injuries, 22% are severe enough to cause concussion, loss of consciousness or worse outcomes. Often those injured were skiing and snowboarding without helmets, the study showed.

In some countries the use of helmets is obligatory and, on a positive note, the number of those wearing helmets for their winter recreational activities is rising.