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Helmets must be part of skiing and snowboarding culture, doctors urge
Date:2/17/2010

TORONTO, On February 17, 2010 While the world's best skiers and snowboarders at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games compete with helmets on, many other skiers and snowboarders are choosing to forego this important piece of safety equipment. In fact, many skiers and snowboarders place fashion before safety, according to a commentary by a St. Michael's Hospital neurosurgeon published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today.

The commentary calls for skiers to shun the cultural stigma or fashion faux pas associated with wearing helmets to encourage helmet use as a routine part of the ski and snowboard culture.

Head injuries in these two alpine sports are the most frequent cause of hospital admission and death. Research shows that about 120,000 people in North America suffer head injuries while skiing or snowboarding each year. Recent studies have shown that helmets help reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 60 percent.

"Despite compelling evidence that shows wearing a helmet significantly reduces the chance of head and brain injury, there are still those who argue that helmets are not fashionable or part of the ski culture," explains Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital. "We have established the safety benefits but now we must find ways to integrate helmets so it becomes another piece of standard equipment for people on the slopes. It is time for everyone who has a stake in skiing and snowboarding to do their part to make the slopes safer."

According to the authors, a shift in attitude toward helmet use is necessary to quash cultural stigmas. They say that change has already begun. For example, during the 2009 National Ski Safety Week, ski areas in California, Colorado and Washington offered discounts on helmets through the Lid for Kids safety awareness program. Other resorts are including a helmet with their child and youth ski and snowboard rental packages.

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Contact: Julie Saccone
sacconej@smh.toronto.on.ca
416-864-5047
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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