Before hitting the slopes, make sure to strap on a helmet.
According to a new study by the University of Innsbruck in Austria, helmets reduce the risk of serious head injuries by 60 percent. However, 40 percent of skiers do not wear helmets.
The study also found that helmets did not lead to increased speed on the slopes, and people with the most experience or time on the slopes were more likely to wear a helmet compared with beginners. The study looked at 500 skiers at a local ski resort.
This past weekend, at the Winter X Games snowboarder Halldor Helgason landed head first in the snow and was briefly knocked unconscious. His helmet prevented him from fracturing his skull. Actress Natasha Richardson died in 2009 following an injury to the head during a beginners ski lesson.
Another study in 2009 found that 77 percent of ski patrollers did not use helmets because they worried it would negatively affect their peripheral vision, hearing and response time, make them slower and clumsier. However, a 2011 study found that peripheral vision and reaction times were not affected by helmet use.
The lack of helmet use on the slopes could be linked to number of factors, including that many people do not believe they are going to fall.
The group with the greatest risk of injury is beginner-level, female skiers. The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma has issued a statement advocating helmet use. Helmets do not increase risk-taking, and protect against serious and sometimes fatal head injuries.
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Source: The New York Times, "Wear a Helmet When Hitting the Slopes," Jan. 30, 2013.