The Benefits of Ski Helmets



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Skiing is a great way to get outside during the winter months. However before you ski you should make sure you have the appropriate equipment to keep you safe. One of the most important pieces of equipment you should have is a helmet.

People don’t wear helmets for various reasons, such as they’re uncomfortable; they don’t fit their head; or they are a good skier or snowboarder, so they claim they don’t need one. However, there are many that disagree with these statements for valid reasons.

Sean Rowell, who is currently a sophomore at Georgetown University, suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while he was snowboarding in 8th grade. “I was snowboarding with my family when I decided to go off on my own to the park. These were jumps that I had done time and time again, so I, along with my parents, was comfortable being there. Something went wrong on my last jump (nobody saw what happened), and I fell and hit the left side of my head,” said Sean. Sean was wearing a helmet, but was immediately knocked unconscious. It happened near the base lodge, so Ski Patrol and EMTs were quick to arrive. Even though they were quick to arrive, they were unsure of whether or not he would live. Sean was later airlifted to Boston, where he spent the next week and a half in the ICU. “I had a very rough time there, developing pneumonia, and going through medication withdrawals and autonomic storming. I was on a breathing vent for most of my time there, and the entire left side of my body was paralyzed for a week,” said Sean. Eventually though, he recovered to be released out of ICU and into rehab.

After being released from the hospital, he spent over a month and a half learning how to walk, eat, and perform various daily tasks again. After he was able to re-learn everything, he gradually began attending school again. Later on the doctors said that if he was not wearing a helmet, he would have died instantly.

On the subject of head injuries in general, he says, “It turns out these [head injuries] are more common than you think. They could happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Taking a few extra steps to be cautious never hurt anyone.” He also said, “Always be in control when you’re on the mountain; Do trails that you’re comfortable with; don’t try crazy stunts, and just be aware of your surroundings. Too many injuries occur from a lack of awareness and control,” says Sean. Later, he also mentioned that he believes helmets should be a required piece of equipment for any skier or snowboarder.

Patrick Jennings, a current junior at BC High, also suffered from a similar head injury while on the mountain, although his was not as severe as Sean’s. Pat over-rotated from a jump and ended up hitting the right-front of his head face down on the snow. His helmet and goggles immediately cracked, and he was also transported to the hospital. Since his injury was less severe, he returned to school within a few weeks. However, he believes that helmets should be required by anyone skiing at a ski mountain as well, not just those taking part in lessons, which is currently the rules at Loon and many other mountains. He said the single most important advice he would give to anyone going to ski or snowboard would be to simply, “Wear a helmet.” He then said this was because, “No one plans to get hurt; it just happens.”

These are just two stories showing how wearing helmets have saved lives. Next time you head to the slopes, make sure you have a helmet with you, and it is relatively new. Helmet manufacturers and the Professional Ski Instructors of America recommend replacing a ski helmet every 3 to 5 years depending on how often it is used. Also, if a helmet sustains a severe impact while skiing, it should be replaced immediately. This is because the foam used in helmets is designed to compress during an impact, minimizing the chance of your brain hitting the skull and causing an injury. This is also why helmets should never be bought used. You simply don’t know the history of that particular helmet.

If you still think that helmets aren’t cool or that they are too expensive, there are good models that can be found for under $200, and since you only have one brain, you might as well protect it. Even the cheaper end of helmets don’t look bad, and since a really high percentage of skiers and snowboarders wear a helmet now, you’re probably more likely to stand out not wearing a helmet.

Now that the winter athletic season is upon us, let’s remember to not sacrifice safety.  Helmets help to assure safety and therefore, your health.  The money spent on a helmet is always well spent, because it might ensure that you can live for another day.