With a massive snow storm crushing the Northeast, many avid skiers and winter sports enthusiasts are probably dreaming of time on the slopes. We have a ski enthusiast in our family. Fresh powder seems to call to him. Depending on where it’s falling, he may be at one of any number of nearby ski areas, but one thing is certain, he’ll be wearing a helmet.
That’s because, luckily, 10 years ago, a second-degree concussion sustained during a fall became the impetus for his wife to buy him a helmet for Valentine’s Day.
He had never worn a helmet in the almost 20 years he had been skiing—it just wasn’t part of his routine. He had reservations about what he would look like wearing a helmet, but after “decorating” the helmet with stickers of his favorite beverages, he was ready to wear it. He recalls that just a few days later he hardly noticed he had it on (much like the habit of buckling your seatbelt.)
Fast forward 6 years to April 2010. He skis off the beaten path in search of untracked snow. He loses the edge on one of his skis and tumbles backward down what ski patrol called a “50-foot low angle cliff.” He remembers hitting at least four rocks during the fall. The emergency department confirms he had a L3 transverse process fracture and bruised ribs. But NO concussion!
Unfortunately some celebrities have not been so fortunate. Natasha Richardson died in 2009 from injuries that were sustained while skiing without a helmet. Sonny Bono died when he struck a tree while skiing.
The National Ski Area Association also advocates the wearing of helmets while skiing, stating that research confirms that wearing a helmet can reduce the incidence of less serious head injuries by 30 to 50 percent.
Additionally, Adil H. Haider, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and leader of a study published in the November issue of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care, says that evidence points to the fact that helmet wearing does saves lives, and doesn’t necessarily encourage participants to engage in more risky behaviors.
Because of the importance he places on the wearing of helmets, my brother insists that his son and daughter wear helmets while skiing, sledding and riding bikes and scooters. My brother estimates that since that eye-opening day in February 2004 he’s been on the slope 300+ days. On only two occasions did he really need the helmet—one time he wishes he would have had one, and the other time he’s grateful he did.