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Helmet Use Encouraged for Downhill Skiers, Snowboarders

FRIDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- There is convincing evidence that helmets help protect downhill skiers and snowboarders from head injuries, but more needs to be done to encourage helmet use, experts say.

Among the ways to do that are to make sure helmets are easy to rent or to include them in skiing packages, suggested Gerhard Ruedl and colleagues from the sport science department at University of Innsbruck in Austria.

A surge of interest in ski helmets occurred after some high-profile skiing-related deaths in Europe and North America, the authors wrote in an editorial published online Feb. 10 in BMJ.

In one of those cases, actress Natasha Richardson died after she suffered a traumatic head injury while skiing in March 2009. She was not wearing a helmet.

A recent study found that ski helmets reduced head injuries by 35 percent overall and by 59 percent among children younger than 13 years of age, Ruedl and colleagues noted in a journal news release.

While there is a theory that helmet use may provide skiers with a false sense of security and lead to riskier behavior, one study found that rates of helmet use are higher in skilled skiers. This suggests that "the use of a helmet is not necessarily associated with a higher level of risk taking but primarily with a higher level of skill," according to the authors of the editorial.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers skiing safety tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Feb. 10, 2011

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