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Helmets must be part of skiing and snowboarding culture, doctors urge

Toronto, February 17, 2010

While the world's best skiers and snowboarders compete with helmets on, many other skiers and snowboarders are choosing to forego this important piece of safety equipment. In fact, many skiers and snowboarders place fashion before safety, according to a recent commentary by a St. Michael's neurosurgeon published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Head injuries in these two alpine sports are the most frequent cause of hospital admission and death. Research shows that about 120,000 people in North America suffer head injuries while skiing or snowboarding each year. Recent studies have shown that helmets help reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 60 percent.

"Despite compelling evidence that shows wearing a helmet significantly reduces the chance of head and brain injury, there are still those who argue that helmets are not fashionable or part of the ski culture," explains Dr. Michael Cusimano, a St. Michael’s neurosurgeon. "We have established the safety benefits but now we must find ways to integrate helmets so it becomes another piece of standard equipment for people on the slopes. It is time for everyone who has a stake in skiing and snowboarding to do their part to make the slopes safer."

The authors recommend:

  • All ski and snowboard advertising images include people wearing helmets
  • Public Service Announcements featuring well-known athletes promoting healthy physical activity
  • Parents wearing helmets to promote the practice with their kids
  • Formal instruction aimed at ski resorts, schools and novice skiers offered through groups such as, Think First and the National Ski Areas Association, need to be included in any campaign to make the slopes safer.