Helmet Safety and Usage
Helmet usage by skiers and snowboarders in the United States continues to increase year over year. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), 78 percent of all skiers and snowboarders wore helmets during the 2014-2015 ski season, setting yet another record for helmet usage. Ski helmet usage has increased every season since 2002.
“Ski areas have done an incredible job of encouraging helmet use, and it shows in the dramatic growth we have seen in the span since NSAA began tracking helmet usage,” said Michael Berry, NSAA president. “The resorts, parents, local medical groups, even the tremendous improvements by helmet manufacturers to enhance helmet design and comfort – all these factors have helped grow helmet usage. When you think how much we have achieved organically as an industry, without government mandates requiring helmets, it’s quite impressive.”
The percentage of minors wearing helmets also continues to increase. According to NSAA’s helmet study, 85 percent of skiers and snowboarders ages 17 and under wore helmets during the 2014-15 season. Even more encouraging, 97 percent of children ages nine and under wore helmets in 2014-15. The NSAA study breaks down helmet usage by nine different age groups. The age group least likely to wear helmets includes skiers and riders between 18 and 24 years old, with 70 percent of them wearing helmets last season. However, this represents dramatic growth from the 2002/03 season, when only 18 percent of that age group wore helmets.
Increased helmet usage has proven to reduce all head injuries, especially potentially serious head injuries. According to a recent scientific paper, researchers studied ski helmet usage data from 1995 through 2012, and concluded that as helmet usage increased over that span, potentially serious head injuries dropped from 4.2 percent of all ski injuries to 3.0 percent of all injuries over the course of the study. (See “Role of Helmets in Mitigation of Head Injuries,” Dr. Jasper Shealy, Dr. Robert Johnson, Carl Ettlinger, Dr. Irving Scher, Skiing Trauma and Safety: 20th Volume, STP 1582, 2015). As the study concluded, while helmet usage increased in the last ten years, there was a dramatic improvement in the decline of potentially serious head injuries, particularly in concussions. According to the study’s authors, three quarters of all potentially serious head injuries from skiing or snowboarding are mild concussions, and 90 percent are typically treated and released from hospitals or clinics within four hours. The study concluded that ski and snowboard helmets are extremely effective at preventing skull fractures, and have virtually eliminated scalp lacerations.
“As an industry, we are proud of our commitment to safety, and the efforts to promote helmet use by both ski areas and parents alike should be applauded,” Michael Berry stated. “At the same time, though, we want to stress that skiing and riding safely and responsibly—and not simply donning one piece of equipment—is the best way to prevent incidents and injuries out on the mountain.”
To learn more about helmet safety for minors, please visit www.lidsonkids.org.