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Helmets use credited for low rate of serious injury in snowsports

Comfy and warm in my Bern
by Christine Cohen

January is safety awareness month in the world of snowsports. To continue that theme, let's talk about your head. Take a look around you in the lift line. These days the number of people wearing helmets is on the rise. Considering the speeds that are reached on the slopes, they far exceed the speeds the average cyclist reaches, it stands to reason helmets are just as necessary.

According to the National Ski Area Association studies show serious head injuries account for only 2.6 percent of overall skiing/snowboarding injuries combined. Additionally, helmets are designed for comfort today and keep the wearer not only safer but warmer, drier and have come a long way in design and style choices.

What you need to know about helmets:

Fit your helmet before you buy. In order for helmets to work properly, they need to be sized properly. Poorly fitting helmets are not going to be as effective in the event of a serious accident. Helmets should neither be too tight or loose on your head. If you can not buckle a youngsters helmet, sending them down the slopes would have little protection compared to a properly fitted helmet. One jarring fall and it will likely come off.

Try helmets on first. As convenient as online shopping can be, it probably is the culprit for many poorly sized helmets out there. Trying a helmet on for size is crucial and should be done with your goggles along with you in order to be sure you don't end up replacing those as well when selecting a helmet. Not all goggles are as helmet compatible however they claim to be.

Evaluate for replacement after an impact. Not every helmet can withstand a serious blow. Be sure to evaluate the manufactures recommendation as to the likelihood of that helmet being usable after a notable impact. Sometimes it will be very evident in the form of visible cracks and damage to the foam inside. Other times, you may not be able to tell that it suffered considerable damage that will greatly reduce it's effectiveness in another event of collision. When in doubt, consult the manufacturer directly on their customer service line or talk with your ski shop professional where you purchased it. Bare in mind that this in no way means a helmet is not durable should it crack. They are often designed to split on impact taking the brunt of the force and distributing it outward and saved your head from doing so. They were designed to do just that.

As a firm believer in helmet safety, my feeling is there is really no excuse to go unprotected. I have seen too many accidents and witnessed broken helmets, particularly in younger skiers and riders. Safety, thankfully seems to be the popular choice from my casual lift line observations. It's cool to be smart and protect your smarts. Now, grab a helmet and get out and ski!

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