February 21, 2006

Study Backs Helmets for Skiers, Snowboarders

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wearing a helmet while skiing, as many competitive alpine skiers and snowboarders are required to do, could reduce injuries among recreational skiers, Norwegian researchers said on Tuesday.

Head injuries are the most common cause of death among skiers and snowboarders, yet most ski resorts do not require helmets, according to a study from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo.

About one-third of U.S. skiers and snowboarders wear helmets on the slopes, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

A look at 3,277 injured skiers and snowboarders and nearly 3,000 others who were not injured at eight major Norwegian resorts during the 2002 winter season found that "using a helmet was associated with a 60 percent reduction in the risk for head injury," the study said.

The research also found a trend toward a lower risk for neck injuries with helmet use, though it did not provide a definitive answer to helmet critics who say the helmet's weight could lead to neck injuries among some skiers, especially children.

"Our analysis identified beginners, male sex, youth and snowboarders as groups with increased risk of head injuries, but also showed that the protective effect of helmet use is consistent across groups," the study concluded.