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), 87 percent of all skiers and snowboarders wore helmets during the 2020-2021 ski season, setting yet another record for helmet usage.  Ski helmet usage has increased every season since 2002 (Ski California member resorts are in the Pacific Southwest Region):

The percentage of minors wearing helmets also continues to increase. According to NSAA’s annual helmet study, over 97 percent of skiers and snowboarders ages 17 and under wore helmets during the 2020-21 season. Even more encouraging, nearly 100 percent of children ages nine and under wore helmets in 2020-21. 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 25 and 34 years old, with 82 percent of them wearing helmets the last two seasons. Interestingly, five years ago, it was skiers and riders between 18 and 24 years old with the lowest percentage of helmet usage, suggesting good progress among younger skiers and riders now in that age group. There has been dramatic growth in usage from all age groups since the 2002-03 season.

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.

Despite the efficacy of helmets against injury, it is important to emphasize the role of personal responsibility in overall safety on the slopes. “The collective industry efforts to promote helmet use should be applauded,” NSAA President Kelly Pawlak stated. “At the same time, we stress that skiing and riding safely and responsibly, in addition to wearing a helmet, 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.