For decades, many skiers thought it wasn’t cool to wear helmets for safety. But more recently they seem to be warming to the idea. Safety experts now estimate an average of 40 per cent of skiers and snowboarders use them.
The issue arose anew after Geoffry Bradeen, 45, of Portland, Ore., died of a head injury Jan. 5 while skiing at Mount Hood Meadows. Investigators say he apparently was hit from behind by a snowboarder. A helmet would likely have saved Bradeen, who died of a skull fracture, Oregon’s medical examiner Jasper Shealy told the Oregonian. But studies show such collisions are rare and account for only 6.4 per cent of reported ski accidents, said Shealy, who has studied skiing and snowboarding injuries and fatalities for 35 years.
Shealy said most skiing and snowboarding deaths are caused by hitting a tree or other fixed object at high speed, resulting in chest or torso injuries.
“Frankly, you’re going to need more than a helmet to prevent that fatality,” he said.
He and others looked at 562 deaths from fall 1991 through spring 2005, finding that 60 per cent were the result of a skier or snowboarder hitting a tree. Hitting the snow is the second-biggest killer, with 9.7 per cent, and hitting manmade objects, such as lift towers, is third, at 7.6 per cent.
A U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission study concluded that 44 per cent of 17,500 head injuries to skiers and snowboarders in 1997 could have been prevented or reduced in severity with helmet use. It suggested that helmets could prevent an average of 11 deaths a year.