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To Be Safe Or Not To Be Safe

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Getting everything on, the long underwear and layers of socks, the goggles and gloves, hand warmers as well as feet warmers in the boots, we question what exactly it is that makes this sport so fun. Loading the skis and the ski boots, the poles everything seems to be in place and ready to go, however one important thing is missing, a helmet. "According to statistics from the

National Ski Areas Association, which represents U.S. mountain resorts, 40 people each year have died while skiing or snowboarding." ( With this number of just mortality you would think people would do anything and everything to keep them selves safe and protected. We wear coats and hats to prevent frost bite and goggles to protect our eyes but when it comes to the safety of a collision, we fail to believe helmets are important enough.

I have been skiing since the age of three. By the time I could run and play I could ski down the hill like a little professional. My first real ski accident is a blurr, I was 8 years old and we were skiing at Boyne Highlands, a ski resort in Harbor Springs, Michigan. I can't remember the actual accident; I just remember accelerating down the hill through a short cut and a tree sneaking up on me. The next thing I remember is seeing the sky fly by as I was rushed down the hill in a snow mobile to the infirmary. I was told I had a slight concussion, a sprained wrist and that people needed to keep an eye on me for the next forty eight hours. If I had been wearing a helmet, I would have escaped with a hurt wrist and. "The US Government got on the bandwagon and commissioned the controversial CPSC study which in January 1999 concluded that more than 7,000 head injuries on the slopes each year in the USA could be prevented or reduced in severity by the use of a helmet."( With the increase of head injuries occurring, the government is finally wondering if they too should get involved. Due to this increase in injuries, many resorts are starting to change their policy's;

"As of Oct. 7--Several Colorado ski areas are forcing a shift in long- standing resort policy by mandating helmet use this season for kids in ski school. Crested Butte and Powderhorn are following Aspen Skiing Co.'s lead by requiring helmets for kids. Vail Resorts is installing a less strict "recommendation" for helmets to parents enrolling skiers younger than 14 at all five of its resorts, including Heavenly in California"


There are no federal laws that state, a skier or snowboarder under a certain age

must wear a helmet but as accidents continue to grow in number, resorts are starting to change their policy's as to whom should be required, if anyone at all.

Many people tend to disagree with the new policy's being made. According to Dr. Mike Langran, "There is insufficient evidence to support mandatory wearing of helmets on slopes." Many agree with the statement of Mr.Langran, they don't argue with the facts that yes there are injuries and yes helmets could help but they feel the risk is too small to push for laws and regulations. As quoted by Mr. Langran "It's personal choice at the end of the day."

It may be personal choice; however the skiers and boarders making these choices are hardly educated as to how dangerous these recreational sports can be. Many have no clue as to the alarming number of accidents and deaths. "Head injury was the cause of death in 87.5% of the cases of accidents this year; none were wearing helmets."(6) "In over 400 skiers and snowboarders with traumatic brain injuries, serious enough to warrant transfer and admission to level 1 trauma centers, only 5 were wearing helmets. All were up to speeds of at least twenty miles per hour, and all five of those patients wearing helmets had mild injuries and made full recovery."(13) If the skier and snowboard population knew the statistics of accidents with and without helmets, it wouldn't make sense as to why they would choose not to wear helmets.

A popular criticism of wearing helmets is that they "do not protect you in collisions in over 12 to 14 mph accidents"(5). However, this figure is completely misleading. This number is derived from the impact velocity of hitting a "solid steel anvil". The same tests were done for bicycle helmets and around the same numbers were found. Impact velocities for bicycle helmets range from 10 to 14 mph, yet Thomas and Patterson, indicate differently. They "found that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85%, brain injury by 88% and sever brain injury by 75%."(10) Also, the 5 helmeted skiers and



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