Saturday, January 9, 2010

Boomers and ski helmets

Findings of a survey conducted by members of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) last season, showed that the use of ski helmets is up in most age categories, especially among children and people over 65. The most resistant group is the so-called “middle-aged” skiers and riders. Is it vanity? Is it that peculiar sense of immortality we humans cultivate? Is it that until you have a ‘close call” you just don’t feel a helmet is necessary? Does it interfere with the thrill of skiing or snowboarding? Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on this or if you are one of the “resistant” ones.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that nearly 8,000 head injuries a year could be prevented with helmet use. The NSAA findings suggest, however, that helmet use does increase with skill level. Over half of advanced skiers and riders wear helmets regularly. This season Vail Resorts has made helmet use compulsory for ski-area employees. Most resorts require helmet use for children taking ski lessons. And internationally, Austria leads the way with a mandatory helmet requirement for children under the age of 15.

Millions of people suffer closed head injuries every day. Many of these injuries are mild, resulting in minor and temporary symptoms, such as headache or dizziness. In these cases, the symptoms pass and there are seemingly no lasting effects. Concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), where the brain is “shaken.” Some concussions create long-term injury. Knowing signs for severe brain trauma is critical to stop further brain damage. Signs of serious injury include, but are not limited to, confusion, drowsiness, changes in size of pupils, lack of coordination, slurred speech, changes to vision or other senses, and sometimes convulsions. Immediate treatment is recommended when any of these symptoms are present.

Head injuries account for ten to twenty percent of all snow sports related injuries according to some sources. Statistics vary widely internationally and cause some to make the case that the numbers of head injuries and deaths related to snow sports are small enough to challenge mandatory helmet use.

The National Football League has come under scrutiny recently regarding its previous policies regarding head injuries and its penchant for keeping mum on concussions and their effects on players over the years. The much-publicized new guidelines are keeping some players on the sidelines now.

If you have suffered a TBI, however, you know it can have lasting effects, memory loss and confusion among them. Read more about brain fitness strategies for combating the effects of mild TBI and do not miss this post about algae as brain food.

Check out my articles on adaptive skiing and snowboarding at

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