The Dangerous Mistake You’re Making on the Slopes

Backcountry snowboarding rotator

With winter fast approaching, you’re likely salivating over ski and snowboard season. But are you taking the single most crucial step to help you stay safe on the slopes?

The straightforward, and scary, truth is this: Head injuries account for 20 percent of the 600,000 injuries each year related to skiing and snowboarding in North America, yet in 2010, only 57 percent of skiers and snowboarders wore helmets. That’s just plain dumb, if you ask us, but if you’re not wearing a helemet—you’ve likely got an excuse you at least think is somewhat reasonable.

And that’s why, in a recent article in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, researchers debunked some of the most common myths about ski and snowboard helmets. Here’s a rundown: 

  • Myth 1: Helmets don’t actually help. Most head injuries happen when a person runs into a tree or other stationary object. Helmets could reduce severe head injuries like this by up to 57 percent.
  • Myth 2: Helmets make it hard to see. A properly fitted and positioned helmet won’t affect your vision, and a 2011 study found that they don’t slow down your reaction speed.
  • Myth 3: Helmets cause whiplash. Several studies showed no increased risk of neck or cervical spine injuries in snowboarders or skiers wearing a helmet.
  • Myth 4: People with helmets take more chances. Researchers found that people don’t show signs of risky behavior when wearing a helmet—such as attempting more difficult runs or needing to be evacuated.

Hopefully, those are convincing enough to get you shopping for a helmet? If so, here are some tips for selecting one: 

  • Certification. Look for either the U.S. ASTM F2040 (more common) or European CE EN1077 certification.
  • Fit. Buy your helmet from a reputable dealer and have it fitted in person. Check the fit each time you hit the slopes.
  • Construction. In-mold helmets are lighter, but injection-molded are more durable for everyday falls. Both, if certified, will keep you safe.
  • Replacement. Always replace your helmet after a serious fall, even if you can’t see any visible damage to it.

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