Study shows that head injuries are on the rise on the slopes even though more people are wearing helmets

Risk Homeostasis?

A study presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians(ACEP) showed that even with the increased use of helmets on ski slopes head injuries had

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increased. Overall injuries on the slopes have remained constant during the same period of time.

The study was based on a review of reports to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission‘s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Overall helmet use increased from 36.7% to 57.99% during the study period.

The study looked at 68,761 head injuries during the 2004 through 2010 ski seasons. Males represented 68.8% of the injuries, snowboarders 57.9%, and riders between the ages of 11-017 representing 47.7%.

The one difference in the study was children under 10 years old, which showed a decrease in hade injuries dropping from 11.7% to 4.6%.

One brought out by the study was helmets are only good for impacts of 12-15 miles per hour. Most people ski and board faster than that. The true value of a helmet, 12-15 mph of impact protection should be put out there so more people understand what a helmet will and will not do. People are sold helmets with the idea that they will prevent head injuries. They only will prevent injuries in that narrow range of 0-15 mph; over that speed, you probably are going to have an injury.

There were two different ideas put forth as two why head injuries increased. The one idea with the least space about it was Risk Homeostasis or Target Risk. The other was:

My assumptions are that those increases parallel the increase in terrain park use and the level of difficulty and risk in these sports over the last decade,” Christensen said, “and also that we’re simply seeing more people reporting head injuries because there’s been more education and awareness around them.

However, Risk Homeostasiswill also support the greater use of terrain parks and the increased level of difficult and increased risk undertaken by skiers and riders.

English: Freestyle skiing jump

English: Freestyle skiing jump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do Something

If you sell helmets tell people the truth. Helmets will reduce some head injuries. Helmets probably will not save your life because if you hit something hard enough to cause brain damage that a helmet will protect you from; you are going to receive other injuries that may kill you.

If you wear a helmet understand what your helmet will and will not do to protect your head.

See Head injuries on rise despite helmets

For additional articles on Risk Homeostasis see:

Risk homeostasis theory and traffic accidents: propositions, deductions and discussion of dissension in recent reactions

The Theory of Risk Homeostasis: Implications for Safety and Health

Target Risk: Dealing with the danger of death, disease and damage in everyday decisions

For additional articles on Helmets see:

A helmet manufacture understands the issues(Uvex, Mouthguards)

A new idea that makes sense in helmets: the Bern Hard Hat               

Does being safe make us stupid? Studies say yes.                                

Great article on why helmet laws are stupid                                             

Great editorial questioning why we need laws to “protect” us from ourselves.

Helmet death ignited by misconception and famous personalities      

Helmets do not increase risk of a neck injury when skiing                    

Helmets: why cycling, skiing, skateboarding helmets don’t work         

More information over the debate about ski helmets: Ski Helmets ineffective crashes were the wear is going faster than 12 miles per

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 01: Ryan St Onge of ...


National Sporting Goods Association reports that Helmet use at US Ski Areas increased during the 2009-10 ski season                                                                                       

OSHA Officially recommending helmets for ski area employees         

Other Voice on the Helmet Debate                                                             

Recent UK poll shows that 10% of cyclists would quite biking if there was a compulsory helmet law.  

Skiing/Boarding Helmets and what is the correct message                   

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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A helmet manufacture understands the issues

Uvex has been selling ski and bicycle helmets for a while. Their helmets, from a legal standpoint, are about like everyone else’s. You can argue color, shape, design or air flow makes them standout, but the legal reality is Uvex helmets are a one-hit helmet just like everyone else’s. However Uvex has realized and have eliminated a flaw in their protection plan for customers. All helmet manufactures for the skiing, biking and other industries had missed a major component of head injuries.

Head injuries come in two different types, 1.) Bruises and cuts and 2.) Concussions. Most helmets do an adequate job of protecting against bruises and cuts to the head. At the same time, a plastic bowl and duct tape will also do a fairly good job for a lot less money. Concussions are the real threat to the long term health of participants.1

One of the major sources of concussions is blows to the jaw2. That is why football players and many other sports participants wear a helmet and a mouthguard.

Mouthguards protect three ways. Mouthguards protect against neck injuries, they protect teeth and they protect against concussions3. The protection against concussions is the most important thing a mouthguard does.4

At present The American Dental Association5 recommends wearing custom mouthguards for the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field Hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, wrestling.6 This list is old and has not kept with the increase in the variety of sports people are undertaking today.

Mouthguards take on an even bigger role in sports where the injuries to the head occur by hitting the jar or face such as skiing, biking and whitewater rafting.

Uvex has recognized this issue and is now selling an LP Mouthguard along with their ski and bike helmets. The mouthguard appears to be like those we used in junior high (way before middle school) football. It can be custom formed by boiling the mouthguard and then forming it to your teeth.

If you are serious about protecting yourself or your customers from injuries, then you need to understand the issues.

  1. What are the real types of injuries my customers face?
  2. What protections are available?
  3. What protections that are being used by the industry work?
  4. What protections being used by the industry don’t work?
  5. Why?

Based on the research from other sports, a person wanting to protect against head injuries should be wearing a helmet and a mouthguard. Thanks Uvex.

1 Journal of Athletic Training

2 For the Dental Patient

3 American Dental Association

4 Sportsguard Laboratories, Inc.

5 American Dental Association

6 Sports Dentistry


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