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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, therefore it stands to reason helmets are just as necessary if not more so.

According to the National Ski Area Association studies show serious head injuries are being reduced as a result and now account for only 2.6 percent of overall skiing/snowboarding injuries combined. That is an impressively low number. Additionally, helmets are much better designed for comfort today and keep the wearer not only safer but warmer, drier and have come a long way for 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 aligned and buckled. One jarring fall and an unclipped helmet will do no service to the wearer.

Try helmets on first. As convenient as online shopping can be, it probably is the culprit for many poorly sized helmets being worn 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. Goggles are rarely compatible with every helmet design however they claim to be.

Evaluate for replacement after an impact. Not every helmet can withstand a serious blow and then be reworn, the expectation should be for every serious impact, the helmet should likely be replaced. 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 through a liner that the helmet suffered considerable damage. Accept that the likely hood is great it's effectiveness is reduced post 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, saving your head in doing so.

As a firm believer in helmet safety, my feeling is there is really no excuse to go unprotected with so many options. I have seen too many accidents, collisions and head impacts, particularly with younger skiers and riders. Safety, thankfully seems to be the popular, stylish choice from my casual unscientific lift line observations. It's cool to make the smart choice. Now, grab a helmet and get out and ski!

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