From: Reuters
Published March 17, 2008 06:43 PM

Helmets protect skiers, snowboarders from head injury

By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Skiers and snowboarders should always wear helmets to protect themselves from head injuries on the slopes, researchers say.

Findings from studies conducted in Canada and Norway, as well as the most recently conducted study in the U.S., "have all found evidence that ski helmets reduce the risk of head injury," Professor Peter Cummings told Reuters Health.

The U.S. study by Cummings, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues, estimated a reduction of 15 percent, while the Canadian and Norwegian studies estimated head injury reductions of 29 and 60 percent, respectfully, the investigators report in the medical journal Epidemiology.

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"The studies do not agree regarding the size of the protection afforded we don't know which estimate is closest to the truth," Cummings said. Nevertheless, current evidence suggests that helmet wearing among skiers and snowboarders is useful for the prevention of head injury.

In the U.S. study, investigators compared injured helmeted and non-helmeted skiers and snowboarders treated by ski patrols at 3 western U.S. ski resorts during the 2000 to 2005 seasons. A total of 4,224 had head, face, or neck injuries, while 17,674 received treatment for injuries below the neck.

Overall, 21, 25, and 24 percent of those who sustained head, face, and neck injuries, respectfully, wore helmets, as did 22 percent of those sustaining injuries to other body areas.

Cummings noted that "wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head injury by about 15 percent among all skiers and snowboarders," in analyses that adjusted for factors such as a high fall, ski ownership, any collision, gender, age, season, skiing ability, and ski type.

"We did not conclude that helmets were more effective for beginners or males or any other subgroup," Cummings said, as further examinations according to skiing ability, gender, age, or ski resort showed only small or statistically insignificant variations in protection.

However, evidence from this study supports prior research showing that wearing helmets while skiing or snowboarding does not appear to increase the risk of neck injury.

SOURCE: Epidemiology, March 2008

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