Ski helmet

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A typical ski helmet (left) and paragliding helmet

A ski helmet or snowboard helmet is a protective head covering specifically designed and constructed for wintersports, often insulated against cold weather. Design includes the ability to withstand multiple impacts. This protective gear comes in different styles and types - full shell, short shell, and full face models. A ski helmet must be properly fitted to provide maximum protection, performance and comfort.

Safety standards[edit]

Certification standards include ASTM 2040, CE-EN 1077[[1]], Snell RS-98.[2] ASTM and Snell's ski helmet standards are similar,[citation needed] Snell tests helmets obtained by purchase from randomly chosen retailers, testing the characteristics of the helmet as manufactured.[3]


As of October 2012, an average of 41.5 people per year have died while skiing or snowboarding in the US during the past 10 years, 1.06 deaths per million skier/snowboarder visits."[4] Most head injuries (74%) occur when skiers hit their head on the snow, 10% when they collided with other skiers, and 13% when they collided with fixed objects.[5] In 188 skiing and snowboarding related deaths, 108 of these had head injury as the primary cause of death.[6][7]

Evidence for effectiveness[edit]

Recent studies conclude that helmet use decreases the risk and severity of head injuries without increasing the risk of other injuries.[8][9] One meta-analysis of twelve studies found evidence that the use of helmets had a significant protective effect against head injuries among skiers and snowboarders. The pooled analysis showed that the risk of head injury was reduced by 35% with helmet use and that 2–5 of every 10 head injuries among helmet users could be prevented. There was no increase of neck injuries among wearers.[6]


While helmets are effective at preventing or reducing minor injuries, they have not been shown to reduce the number of fatalities despite the fact that as many as 40% of skiers and snowboarders wear helmets. "There is no evidence they reduce fatalities," according to Dr. Jasper Shealy. "We are up to 40 percent usage but there has been no change in fatalities in a 10-year period."[10]

Helmets are tested for effectiveness at about 14 mph (23 km/h), but the typical maximum speed of skiers and snowboarders is approximately twice that speed, with some participants going much faster. At such speeds, impact with a fixed object is likely to be fatal regardless of helmet use. By contrast, in an impact with icy snow wearing a helmet can be the difference between a minor head injury and a significant or life-threatening head injury.[11]

Moreover, helmet use may result in risk compensation i.e. skiers and snowboarders behaving less cautiously when they feel protected by a helmet. One study found that helmeted skiers tend to go faster[12] and helmet-wearing has been associated with self-reports of more risky behavior[13] other studies find that helmet use is not associated with self-reports of riskier behavior.[8][9][14]


In the USA, by 2006 about 40% of winter-sports participants regularly wore helmets.[11] Ski helmets come in a variety of sizes and styles for men, women and children. Some helmets can include built-in headphones that are able to connect to a music player, allowing the wearer to listen to music while performing the sport. Other accessories include helmet covers, bluetooth interfaces, and extra padding for comfort.[citation needed]


The current recommendation by the National Ski Areas Association is for participants to wear a helmet but to ride as if they’re not.[15]

Vail Resorts, in the United States, now requires helmet wear for their employees, as well as for children under 12 participating in formal classes.[16]


  1. ^ url=
  2. ^ Kipp, Ronald (2011). "Helmet Standards". Alpine Skiing. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4504-2922-1. 
  3. ^ "Snell S98 helmet standard". Snell Memorial Foundation. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Facts About Skiing/Snowboarding Safety" (Press release). National Ski Areas Association. October 1, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ Greve, Mark W.; Young, David J.; Goss, Andrew L.; Degutis, Linda C. (2009). "Skiing and Snowboarding Head Injuries in 2 Areas of the United States". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 20 (3): 234–8. doi:10.1580/08-WEME-OR-244R1.1. PMID 19737041. 
  6. ^ a b Russell, Kelly; Christie, Josh; Hagel, Brent E. (2010). "The effect of helmets on the risk of head and neck injuries among skiers and snowboarders: A meta-analysis". Canadian Medical Association Journal 182 (4): 333–40. doi:10.1503/cmaj.091080. PMC 2831705. PMID 20123800. 
  7. ^ McBeth, Paul B.; Ball, Chad G.; Mulloy, Robert H.; Kirkpatrick, Andrew W. (2009). "Alpine ski and snowboarding traumatic injuries: Incidence, injury patterns, and risk factors for 10 years". The American Journal of Surgery 197 (5): 560–3; discussion 563–4. doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2008.12.016. PMID 19306973. 
  8. ^ a b Ruedl, G; Pocecco, E; Sommersacher, R; Gatterer, H; Kopp, M; Nachbauer, W; Burtscher, M (2010). "Factors associated with self-reported risk-taking behaviour on ski slopes". British Journal of Sports Medicine 44 (3): 204–6. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2009.066779. PMID 20231601. 
  9. ^ a b Haider, Adil H.; Saleem, Taimur; Bilaniuk, Jaroslaw W.; Barraco, Robert D.; Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma Injury ControlViolence Prevention Committee (2012). "An evidence-based review". Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 73 (5): 1340–7. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e318270bbca. PMID 23117389. 
  10. ^ Fletcher Doyle (4 March 2008). "Use your head on the ski slopes". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  11. ^ a b Shealy, Jasper E.; Johnson, Robert J.; Ettlinger, Carl F. (2006). "Do Helmets Reduce Fatalities or Merely Alter the Patterns of Death?". In Moritz, Eckehard Fozzy; Haake, Steve. The Engineering of Sport 6. pp. 163–7. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-45951-6_30. ISBN 978-0-387-34680-9. 
  12. ^ Shealy, JE; Ettlinger, CF; Johnson, RJ (2005). "How Fast Do Winter Sports Participants Travel on Alpine Slopes?". Journal of ASTM International 2 (7): 12092. doi:10.1520/JAI12092. 
  13. ^ Ružić, Lana; Tudor, Anton (2011). "Risk-taking Behavior in Skiing Among Helmet Wearers and Nonwearers". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 22 (4): 291–6. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2011.09.001. PMID 22137861. 
  14. ^ Scott, Michael D; Buller, David B; Andersen, Peter A; Walkosz, Barbara J; Voeks, Jennifer H; Dignan, Mark B; Cutter, Gary R (2007). "Testing the risk compensation hypothesis for safety helmets in alpine skiing and snowboarding". Injury Prevention 13 (3): 173–7. doi:10.1136/ip.2006.014142. PMC 2598370. PMID 17567972. 
  15. ^ "NSAA Helmet Safety Fact Sheet" (Press release). National Ski Areas Association. March 18, 2009. Archived from the original on March 26, 2009. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  16. ^ Carrig, Blaise; Garnsey, John (April 13, 2009). "Vail resorts to require helmets for all on-mountain staff when skiing, riding next season". RealVail. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • McIntosh, Andrew Stuart; Andersen, Thor Einar; Bahr, Roald; Greenwald, Richard; Kleiven, Svein; Turner, Michael; Varese, Massimo; McCrory, Paul (2011). "Sports helmets now and in the future". British Journal of Sports Medicine 45 (16): 1258–65. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090509. PMID 22117017. 
  • Hoshizaki, T Blaine; Brien, Susan E (2004). "The science and design of head protection in sport". Neurosurgery 55 (4): 956–66; discussion 966–7. doi:10.1227/01.NEU.0000137275.50246.0B. PMID 15458605.