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Why are Head Injuries Increasing on the Slopes While Ski Helmet use has Also Increased?

Recently a Norwegian study that focused on head injuries and helmet use on the slopes reached a surprising conclusion:  there was an overall reduction in the protective effect of skiing helmets.

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Without a doubt, the study confirmed that ski helmets are beneficial in reduction of head injuries.  Helmets help reduce the severity of the head injuries in many cases.  Unfortunately, the statistics show that skiing related head injuries requiring emergency care have increased at a higher rate than all other ski and snowboard injuries – despite a substantial increase in helmet use.

In 2002 data shows that ski helmets helped reduce the risk of head injury by up to 60%.  However, after analyzing injury data at Norwegian ski resorts between 2010 and 2011 on head injuries, the study determined that the protective effect of helmet use was down to only 21%.  Despite the fact that helmet use increased 24% since 2002, helmeted skiers were only 21% less likely to suffer head injuries in 2010 than skiers without helmets.

Why the change in efficacy of ski helmets?  The findings are counter-intuitive.  Helmet technology has improved and the helmets are now better fitting and more protective than ever and more people are wearing them.  The study’s authors concluded that the decrease in efficacy is most likely due to a change in the sport itself.  People are skiing faster, going bigger and skiing terrain not imagined 15 years ago.  Terrain park injuries along increased from 8% in 2002 to 21% of all ski injuries in 2010.  Essentially, skiers are pushing the limits and the sport is progressing.  As this happens the risk level seems to be increasing as well.

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Remember these two things when you take to the slopes in a couple of months:

  1. 1.   Wear a helmet (especially kids), but remember that its not a guarantee against a head injury, and
    1. 2.   Follow the 70% rule.  You don’t need to push your limits past this mark to have fun.  Doing so, increases your risk of injury exponentially.   2016-01-01 14.59.58