Helmet death ignited by misconception and famous personalities


Neither is an effective way to deal with risk management issues

A big debate has started over helmets. The debate is fueled by two things. First is the death of Natasha Richardson. The second is a misconception of the value of helmets in skiing.

The public relations surrounding the death of a famous person from a head injury always triggers a helmet debate. However, the debate seems inane when the head injury that caused the fatality of Natasha Richards would not have been protected by a helmet. Natasha Richards died of a rotation injury that no helmet would have prevented.

Second is the misconception about helmets. Helmets don’t stop fatalities. Helmets may stop head injuries in non-fatal ski/board accidents.

The debate is hot in Jackson Hole because of a fatality caused by a head injury by a ski patroller at the resort. While performing her duties as a patroller, she suffered a head injury in an out of bounds couloirs.OSHA and the state fined Jackson Hole Ski Resort for not having the patroller wear a helmet. However,by most accounts, a helmet would not have protected the fatality. See Jackson death spurs helmetdebate.

Vail Resorts and Intrawest have both published new helmet policies for guests and have in the past or have added requirements for employees when working within the past seven months. See Intrawest ski resorts increasing helmet use and Vail Resorts Makes Helmets Mandatory for Employees in 2009-2010 Winter Season.

The misconception is the biggest problems. Studies show that helmets do not reduce fatalities. Skiers and boarders who suffer a collision or an injury sufficient to cause a death while skiing or boarding die of some other issue.

See the following studies: Do helmets reduce fatalities or merely alter the Patterns of Death by Shealy, Jasper E., Johnson, Robert J., and Ettlinger, Carl F. Skiing Trauma and Safety, 17th Volume 2009 and Head injuries in Snowboarding: Evaluating the Protective Rule, Scher, Iriving, Richards, Darrin, and Carhart, Michael, Skiing Trauma and Safety, 16th Volume, 2008.

Helmets do prevent head injuries. Most noticeably in, terrain park injuries and backward snowboarder falls, possibly in skier v skier (or skier v. boarder or boarder v. boarder) collisions. See the above studies.

For other articles about ski resorts and helmets see: Whistler Blackcomb mandates helmet use by youth instructors, Jackson death spurs helmet debate.

What does all of this mean? If you ski and snowboard wear a helmet…..or not. Do not expect a helmet to save your life, it will only prevent head injuries.

Copyright 2010 Recreation Law 720 Edit Law, Recreaton.Law@Gmail.com



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