Norwegian Study Finds Helmets Substantially Reduce Head Injuries for Skiers and Snowboarders

A recent Norwegian study published in the February 22 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that using a helmet greatly benefits both skiers and snowboarders of all levels.

According to Dr. Steinar Sulheim of the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, regardless of skill level, using a helmet reduced the risk of head injury by 60% among alpine skiers and snowboarders.

Opponents of a law requiring helmet use argue that helmets may actually increase the risk of accident and injury by limiting one’s field of vision and impairing one’s hearing. Prior studies have been inconclusive on the issue.

Te research team examined reports on 3,277 skiers and snowboarders injured at eight major Norwegian ski resorts during the 2002 winter season. For comparison, the researchers gathered data on nearly 3,000 non-injured skiers and snowboarders at the resorts.

After adjusting for age, sex, and skill level, the study revealed that helmet use significantly reduced the risk for head injury. The researchers also found that compared to skiers, snowboarders were at significantly higher risk for head injury.

Using a helmet reduced the risk of severe head injury by 57%. Males were almost 50% more likely to be injured than females.

According to the study authors: “Our analysis identified beginners, male sex, youth [less than 13 years old], and snowboarders as groups with increased risk of head injuries but also showed that the protective effect of helmet use is consistent across groups.”

Head injury is the most frequent reason for hospital admission and the most common cause of death among skiers and snowboarders. Those admitted to the hospital have an 8% mortality rate. Currently, helmets are not typically required at ski resorts.

(Source: MedPage Today 2/21/06)

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