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Ski helmets may not be helping prevent serious brain injury

Skiing is a great way to get out and enjoy the winter season. Instead of sitting inside and sipping hot chocolate, some people prefer to bundle up and brave the cold ski slopes for an adrenaline rush. Those that hit the slopes regularly in the winter may have noticed a booming trend in recent years: ski helmets.

According to the National Ski Areas Association, 70 percent of all skiers and snowboarders are wearing helmets for protection, which is triple the number that wore helmets about a decade ago. Many people would predict that because many more people are wearing helmets, the number of brain injuries would be decreasing.

However, one study found a 60 percent increase in head injuries from 2004 to 2010. The use of helmets increased by almost the same percentage during the same time. Many experts believe that while many people are more informed of the risks of skiing and snowboarding, and the possibility of brain injuries, many people are taking more risks in snow sports, likely because they feel secure wearing a helmet.

While helmets have reduced the number of less severe head injuries, they have not prevented serious and life threatening injuries. Doctors and experts likely aren't saying not to wear helmets, but the data might show that these helmets provide a false sense of security that promotes more risky behavior. It is important that people are informed of all the risks associated with sports and they should understand from equipment makers what the limits of their products are.

Source:  The New York Times, "Ski Helmet Use Isn't Reducing Brain Injuries," Kelley McMillan, Dec. 31, 2013

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