Do helmets reduce traumatic brain injuries in ski accidents?

If you’ve been skiing for decades, you’ve probably noticed in recent years that more skiers are wearing helmets. If you’re still fairly new to the sport, you may never have known a time when they weren’t a regular sight on the slopes.

In the Rental Center at nearby Seven Springs Mountain Resort, you’ll even find a Somerset Hospital Helmet Zone, which the resort created in partnership with the hospital. Many ski resorts, including Seven Springs, recommend that their guests wear helmets when skiing and participating in other snow sports.

It’s reasonable to assume that helmets help protect skiers from suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other head injuries in a fall or collision on the slopes. However, a recent study calls part of that assumption into question.

For the study, which was published in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, researchers used data from clinics located at 30 ski resorts across France. The data was from patient cases between 2012 and 2014.

They found that skiers and snowboarders involved in a traumatic incident while wearing helmets were less likely to suffer nonTBI head injuries than those not wearing helmets. However, there was no significant difference between helmet wearers and nonhelmet wearers in TBIs and concussions.

The most common traumatic incidents in the ski resorts studied involved accidents and collisions. Overall, those under 16 and over 50 were most at risk of suffering a head injury. So were those not highly skilled in the activity they were participating in (particularly snowboarders).

The lead author concluded that the study “poses important questions to the scientific community and to helmet manufacturers about how helmets can be improved to better protect from concussion.”

He also said the findings indicate that “helmet users take less risk than those who do not use helmets. This contradicts the “risk compensation theory,” which implies that the perception of being protected by the helmet might lead people to take more risks.”

Head injuries, and TBIs in particular, can take years to fully heal. Some people carry the effects with them for the rest of their lives. If you or a loved one suffers a TBI or other head injury on the ski slopes this winter that was caused by another person’s recklessness or negligence, it’s worthwhile to find out what your legal options are for seeking the compensation you need and deserve.