||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with USA and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2014)|
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.
Certification standards include ASTM 2040, CE-EN 1077[], Snell RS-98. ASTM and Snell's ski helmet standards are similar, Snell tests helmets obtained by purchase from randomly chosen retailers, testing the characteristics of the helmet as manufactured.
As of October 2012[update], 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." 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. In 188 skiing and snowboarding related deaths, 108 of these had head injury as the primary cause of death.
Evidence for effectiveness
Recent studies conclude that helmet use decreases the risk and severity of head injuries without increasing the risk of other injuries. 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.
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."
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.
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 and helmet-wearing has been associated with self-reports of more risky behavior other studies find that helmet use is not associated with self-reports of riskier behavior.
In the USA, by 2006 about 40% of winter-sports participants regularly wore helmets. 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.
The current recommendation by the National Ski Areas Association is for participants to wear a helmet but to ride as if they’re not.
Vail Resorts, in the United States, now requires helmet wear for their employees, as well as for children under 12 participating in formal classes.
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- "Facts About Skiing/Snowboarding Safety" (Press release). National Ski Areas Association. October 1, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
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- "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.
- 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.
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