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Can Helmets Prevent Brain Injuries Among Skiers and Snowboarders?

According to travel association ABTA, up to one million Brits are expected to take a skiing or snowboarding holiday this winter, with the majority in the 16-24 age bracket.

ABTA also say that, thankfully, these young winter sports enthusiasts are driving an increase in the number of people wearing a helmet on the slopes, with up to 70% of all skiers and snowboarders now wearing a helmet.

That still leaves 30% of skiers and snowboarders who are unlikely to wear a helmet at all – and may not be aware of the brain injury risk associated with their chosen sport.

How Can Winter Sports Cause Brain Injuries?

Of all skiing injuries, 17 per cent involve injuries to the head, according to a Guardian article on ski safety.

A 2011 British Medical Journal study from the University of Innsbruck found that 74 per cent of all head injuries occurred when skiers hit their head on the snow, 13 per cent when they collided with trees or other objects, and 10 per cent when they collided with another skier.

Skiers and snowboarders regularly reach speeds of over 30mph, even on intermediate slopes, so a collision at this speed can cause significant injury. For those on the beginner slopes, an impact with the snow surface itself are common – novice skiers and snowboarders can lose their balance quickly and a backwards fall onto the snow can often come with a nasty bang to the back of the head.

Perhaps the use of a helmet in these circumstances could help reduce a life-threatening head injury to a less serious one.

Helmets and Brain Injuries

There have been some high profile cases over the years involving celebrities who have died in a winter sports accident.

In 1998, Sonny Bono died instantly when he hit a tree at a Nevada ski resort. He was not wearing a helmet at the time. In March 2009, Natasha Richardson – a member of the Redgrave acting dynasty and wife of Hollywood actor Liam Neeson – died after a skiing accident in Canada. She was also not wearing a helmet at the time.

A 2014 inquest into the death of an experienced skier who suffered a fatal head injury at an Austrian ski resort saw the coroner urge that anyone going on a winter sports holiday should wear a helmet. The 23-year-old skier was not wearing a helmet when he lost control and crashed into a snow machine.

This argument is strongly supported by brain injury charity Headway, who point to clear evidence of the role that helmets play in reducing head injuries among skiers and snowboarders.

For further advice on staying safe on your winter sports holiday, see our previous blog: Avoiding Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

Ken Brough is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for anyone who has sustained a skiing or snowboarding injury through no fault of their own. We have expert teams who can work together if you are injured on a winter sports holiday abroad and our specialist travel litigation team can guide you through every step of the process.

Most cases are funded through a No Win No Fee agreement, which means there is no financial risk to you.

Call us anytime 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online. From outside the UK please call +44 20 7657 1555.

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