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Why You Should Never Ski Without a Helmet


Why You Should Never Ski Without a Helmet

It seems that every pleasure in life has risks and rewards. French fries are delicious but they clog arteries. We all love to travel, but we know the plane could crash. The trick to enjoying your life safely is to minimize risk and maximize reward, which is precisely what this article is about.

Generally speaking, humans avoid risk as much as possible. We wear seat belts, we order the low-fat yogurt, and we lock our doors at night as a matter of course. Why should we behave differently on the mountain? In this article, I will tell you exactly why you must always wear a ski helmet on the slopes, and after you finish reading, I hope that you’ll agree with me.

First, let’s look at some statistics. Head injuries are the leading cause of death among skiers and snowboarders. During the 2011-2012 ski season, 54 skiers and snowboarders were killed out of about 10 million total. Furthermore, 510 “serious injuries” (paralysis, brain damage or permanent injury) were reported. Among the dead and injured, only about 30 percent were wearing helmets.

What does this tell us? It tells us that there is a clear correlation between wearing ski helmets and staying safe. Note that approximately 70 percent of skiers and snowboarders in fatal or near-fatal accidents were not wearing helmets. That fact alone should tell us that ski helmets help prevent injury and death. So why wouldn’t everyone wear a ski helmet? Why make an already risky sport even riskier?

Although ski helmet use has increased dramatically over the past few years, some skiers still claim that their use decreases visibility as well as the ability to hear. Another allegation is that ski helmets lead to a sense of invincibility, meaning that the skier might engage in riskier behavior on the slopes. However, recent studies at John Hopkins and other institutions have concluded that these claims are untrue, much like the decades-old claims that wearing seat belts could trap you inside a burning car, or that it’s a good idea for pregnant women to smoke in order to avoid weight gain. These claims are excuses, nothing more, and I would urge anyone who’s tempted to believe them to take a long, hard look at the scientific data regarding ski helmets and their ability to prevent injury and death.

Ski helmets gained national attention in 2009 when actress Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident. She wasn’t hot-dogging down a Black Diamond trail, or practicing ski jumping. She was on a bunny trail, fell backward at a low speed, and died from the resulting injuries. Clearly, a helmet would have saved her life. Her death also demonstrates that a ski helmet should be worn at all times, whether on the highest vertical or the gentlest slope.

 

Skiing is, and always will be, a dangerous sport. At the beginning of this article, we discussed risk versus reward. Is the pure pleasure of skiing, the exhilarating feeling of gliding smoothly down a mountain, the feeling of being one with nature and the elements worth the risk of a possible accident? As an avid skier and snowboarder, I would have to say yes, without a doubt. However, I’m not going to double or triple my chances of dying on the slopes by not wearing a helmet. I owe it to my family, my friends, and most importantly to myself to keep my helmet on. I love my living my life and I love to ski. Wearing a ski helmet at all times means I get to do both.

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