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Wearing a Helmet When Skiing/Snowboarding?

It’s accepted as common practice that one should always put safety first and wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, bicycle, or skateboard, but what about the importance of wearing a helmet on the ski slopes?

Several studies have concluded that helmets reduce the risk of serious head injury by as much as 60 percentReports showed that in 2003, only 25 percent of people on the slopes wore helmets. However, by 2013, that statistic went up to 70 percent. Although the number of head injuries has not declined, the severity of the injuries has.

In light of the conversation, we asked doctors, “Should helmets always be worn when skiing/snowboarding?”

Of the 1,377 physicians who responded from 37 countries, an overwhelming 88 percent answered that a helmet should be worn when skiing and snowboarding, highlighting the importance of safety:

“Absolutely, I have seen way too many concussions of people skiing and boarding. I live and ski in [Colorado], I would say over 90% of people on mountain [are] wearing helmets now, should be 100%. Can’t tell you how many times skiing in the trees that I have whacked my head on a tree limb that I thought I had good clearance on.” – Pain Medicine 

“Yep. The Natasha Richardson story was heart-breaking, and avoidable. Just got back from Steamboat Springs. Those who weren’t wearing helmets were often heading back at noon to rent or purchase one. Visibility changes quickly, and if you don’t have a brain bucket, the black bumps can quickly become life-threatening.” – General Surgery 

“I used to never wear helmets when I snowboarded. I started when I was in high school in the early 90s, and no one wore helmets back then. But then once I started making GI money decades later, I started to wear helmets. Also, by that time, Shaun White made it cool to wear a helmet so every snowboarding kid started to wear helmets. These days, it’s usually old school dudes like in me in the 40s and older that refuse to wear helmets.” – Gastroenterology 

“I started wearing a helmet after a fall while learning to snowboard back in 1987. Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy both died after head injuries while skiing in Dec 1997 and Jan 1998 and that is when I noticed skiers starting to wear helmets.” – Allergy and Immunology

“I absolutely believe they should be required by law. If we can cut down on the funding of institutionalizing a demographic of brain injury patients, that would certainly be worth the inconvenience of having big brother instructing adults how to be adults.” – General Surgery

Of the 4 percent of doctors who responded ‘no,’ some claimed that while they would recommend their patients wear helmets, individuals should ultimately have a choice, and that risk of injury depended on what the athlete was doing:

“Yes, they should be worn. But just like state laws allow motorcycle riders to decide if they want one, it should remain an individual decision.” – Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

“I’d say it is a case by case situation, depending upon skier/boarder ability and craziness… I’ve seen the trend for more and more people wearing helmets in the past 20 years. Of course, it is probably the prudent thing. No harm in recommending it, right? I can’t imagine physicians NOT recommending doing so.” – Family Medicine

Are you a doctor? Join Sermo to join the conversation and share your opinions as a physician.