Last month I wrote “yes under your helmet” referring to wearing a thin woollen hat.
Some folks have said to me that a helmet is not essential and can reduce one’s vision and ability to hear. They also said that people can feel artificially safer and so ski/board more recklessly. Also it was said, that having skied for so many years, now in these sunset years why bother?
Head injuries can occur as a result of collision, or impact with the snow. Often at high speed. Research published in the British Medical Journal shows that wearing a helmet reduces head injuries by 35 per cent.
In some regions, wearing a helmet is compulsory. While in France and Switzerland there are no rules, although the ski schools strongly encourage it but in Italy it’s compulsory up to the age of 14.
So why haven’t the Swiss made it mandatory when their culture is typical safety orientated?
The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention say the average ski related head injuries is 17,000 per year. After several prevention campaigns "Enjoy sport – protect yourself" their 2010 report noted extensive research into the increased use of helmets and the effectiveness of wearing a ski helmet. From the available results of the studies, it is impossible to determine whether primarily light or severe injuries can be prevented. Nevertheless, no precise details on the protective effect of a helmet can be given as the results achieved differ according to the study design.
They note that, “It is important that the helmet fits as snugly as comfort allows and that the chin straps are always tightly fastened. The protective effect is strongly dependent on the impact speed of the head against an obstacle or the ground”.
The study noted some useful recommendations such as ski rental companies supplying a helmet free of charge and aerial cableway companies could ensure that only advertising in which snow-sport participants wear helmets is shown in their snow-sport areas. “The message to young people should on no account be that not wearing a helmet is cool.”
Dr Mike Langran, president of the International Society For Skiing Safety, says “But all the people who have looked at the data realise the risk of serious injury is too small to make them mandatory.”
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA),there has been an associated 50% reduction in head injuries for those wearing helmets.
The Swiss expect people to take responsibility for themselves and have the freedom of choice while acting sensibly.
Personally, there are enough silly people waving their ski stocks around and inappropriately carrying their skis on their shoulders, to ensure that I put my helmet on around the train station as well as on the slopes.
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