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Wearing a helmet on the slopes may not prevent brain injury

Helmets are a common accessory for many sports today. Research and public awareness about the dangers associated with head trauma mean individuals are donning better protection for bike riding, high-impact sports and many other recreations. When residents of Phoenix, Arizona, take a ski holiday, however, they should know that wearing a helmet while on the slopes may not prevent all accident-related brain injuries.

Just before the new year, Formula One driver Michael Schumacher experienced a fall while skiing overseas. He hit his head on a rock during the accident, resulting in traumatic brain injury. The driver was wearing a helmet, but experts aren’t surprised that his protective gear didn’t work 100 percent.

According to a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, injuries sustained in skiing accidents often involve components that modern helmets can’t protect against. The professor states that even though more people are wearing helmets while skiing, he hasn’t noticed a reduction in potentially serious head injuries. Other studies cite the fact that today’s equipment lets ski enthusiasts take bigger risks, resulting in more severe injuries when accidents do occur.

The fact that a helmet doesn’t protect 100 percent against brain injury doesn’t mean the 70 percent of skiers wearing them should take them off. Helmets still protect against minor injuries in almost any fall. Experts also state that Schumacher would probably not be alive today if he wasn’t wearing a helmet during his accident.

When individuals participate in activities such as skiing that come with inherent risks, some responsibility for that risk resides with them. However, if individuals are wearing faulty equipment or skiing in an area that has been improperly maintained, manufacturers or property owners may share liability for an accident. Wearing a helmet can reduce the impact of an injury, but individuals who sustain permanent disability despite wearing safety gear may be able to seek compensation for expenses and loss.

Source: The New York Times, “Ski Helmet Use Isn’t Reducing Brain Injuries” Kelley McMillan, Dec. 31, 2013

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