Twelve to 14 mph is the speed at which ski and snowboard helmets are most effective, per ASTM International. Unfortunately, most skiers go at least twice that fast. They may not save you in a head-on collision. But that’s not their only job. Helmets also protect against injuries like cuts and scrapes resulting from bad falls. When you consider the amount of obstacles—like treewells, trees, and rocks—native to most ski areas, wearing a helmet is a no-brainer.
In 2017, after a decade-long uptick in helmet usage among teenage and adult skiers and snowboarders, several studies reexamined the effectiveness and safety of ski helmets. And while yes, helmets were measured to protect from minor injuries that would have resulted in gashes or cuts to the head, they were mostly ineffective when it came to concussions. A helmet does not make you invulnerable—more often than not, your safety depends on your speed.
A recent study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery complicated things further, citing among 721 skiers and snowboarders evaluated at a trauma center, those who wore helmets “were more likely to suffer severe injury, including intracranial hemorrhage, as compared with unhelmeted participants. However, they were less likely to sustain skull fractures or cervical spine injuries. Helmeted patients were also more likely to hit a stationary object.”
In short: Nothing is more important than exercising safe skiing and snowboarding practices.
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