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Helmets prevent 2 to 5 of every 10 head injuries among skiers and snowboarders

Helmets reduce the risk of head injury among skiers and snowboarders by 35 percent and two to five of every 10 head injuries could be prevented with helmet use. This is according to finding by a team of researchers from the University of Calgary, Alberta, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and cited in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The authors analyzed 12 published studies from Europe, Asia and North America documenting incidents of injury involving mountain skiers and snowboarders between 1990 and 2004.

The analysis showed no evidence of increased risk of neck injury associated with wearing of helmets. This disputes concerns that helmets may increase the risk of neck injury, particularly in children because they have a greater head to body ratio. Simulated snowboarding falls found no increase in neck loads from helmet use.
However, the researchers note that the use of helmets may provide a false sense of security resulting in more risk-taking or dangerous maneuvers, which increases the likelihood of injury to other parts of the body. Nevertheless, the results found no relation between helmet use and injury due to non-helmet equipment damage, fast speed, difficult runs or jumping. If helmet users have exhibited compensating behavior, still their level of injury is not higher that those of non-users.
Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports. Studies from different countries reveal head injuries and neck/spinal injuries account for up to 19 percent and 4 percent of all injuries, respectively, as reported by ski patrols and emergency departments a relatively small proportion. Yet head and neck injuries represent severe cases of trauma for which traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death.
The researchers were unable to examine results of the design, quality or fit of the helmets. They suggested, however, that if helmets were of poor quality or condition or were worn incorrectly, these defeat the true potential of helmets in reducing head injury. The authors proposed that reductions in the weight of the ski and snowboard helmets that offer adequate protection should remain a goal for manufacturers.

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