As a traumatic brain injury lawyer, I can only shake my head in disbelief when people who are participating in dangerous activities refuse to wear helmets.
Perhaps they need to see graphic photos of someone with horrific brain damage, or talk to someone who is struggling to recover from a brain injury, before they realize how foolish it is to eschew a helmet.
The New York Times Tuesday took a look at the issue of why some athletes spurn headgear in a story headlined “Hitting the Slopes? Wear a Helmet.”
The article noted that studies show that helmets reduce the risk of serious head injury by as much as 60 percent. So why don’t people wear them? The Times cited a study that helps explain the reluctance don a helmet.
In 2009 ski patrollers from across the nation were surveyed, The Times wrote, and a whopping 77 percent of them said they didn’t wear helmets “because they worried that the headgear could reduce their peripheral vision, hearing and response times, making them slower and clumsier.”
And these ski patrollers also expressed the fear that if they wore helmets, skiers and snowboarders who were less skilled would follow suit, according to The Times. And wearing a helmet would embolden these amateurs to take more risks and perhaps pull some foolish moves, lulled into a false sense of security by their helmets.
In reality, there has been research done that found that skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets didn’t engage in more risk-taking behavior when they had the protective gear on.
And, The Times reported, other research performed in a lab found that helmets didn’t interfere with peripheral vision or reaction times.
The story in The Times prompted the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AA0S) to put out a press release about the article.
The AAOS said that it recommends helmet use for individuals of all ages participating in sledding, skiing, snowboarding and all other winter sports.
“The purpose of the helmet is to partially absorb the force and dissipate the energy of blunt trauma in an effort to protect the head,” the press release said. “While helmets do not decrease the risk of injury, they can decrease the severity.”
The release also cited data from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), which said that during the last decade there were about 40 deaths annually as a result from downhill skiing/snowboarding accidents in the United States. Of those fatalities, only eight people, or 20 percent, involved were reported to be wearing helmets at the time of injury.