Helmets save skiers, snowboarders: review

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Helmets save skiers, snowboarders: review

‘We encourage the use of helmets,’ researchers say

Last Updated: Monday, February 1, 2010 | 4:04 PM ET   CBC News

Wearing helmets to ski and snowboard helps reduce the risk of head injury without increasing the risk of neck injury, Canadian researchers say.

Helmet use reduced the risk of head injuries among skiers and snowboarders by 35 per cent, a review of 12 studies published in Monday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal found.

Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and serious injury among skiers and snowboarders, the researchers said. Estimates from several countries suggest head injuries account for up to 19 per cent and neck injuries for up to four cent of all injuries reported by ski patrols and emergency departments.

But between two and five out of every 10 head injuries could be prevented by wearing helmets, the reviewers concluded.

“The use of helmets significantly protects against head injuries among skiers and snowboarders,” Brent Hagel of the departments of pediatrics and community health sciences at the University of Calgary and his co-authors concluded.

Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury regardless of age and to both backcountry and prepared ski runs. But one study had raised a concern that helmets may increase the risk of neck injury, particularly among children because of their greater head-to-body ratio compared with adults.

Neck risk discounted

The results of the individual and combined studies from Canada, the U.S., Japan and Europe showed no major link between helmet use and increased risk of neck injury, according to the study published Monday.

“When we look at models like the bicycle helmet legislation that’s been implemented in a number of provincial jurisdictions across Canada and, really, all over the world, I think it’s probably moving in that direction,” said Hagel.

“But from an epidemiologic point of view, I think that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries and we encourage their use.”

More rigorous research is needed to determine which types of helmets provide the best protection, and head gear is not a panacea, Hagel added.

Canadian standard in the works

The highly publicized death of actress Natasha Richardson after a fall at a ski resort in Quebec last March added to the debate over whether helmets should be mandatory for the winter sports, as they are for children in some European countries.

Mandatory helmet use would require helmet safety standards. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) tests helmets for alpine skiing and snowboarding and has developed such a standard. This certification is voluntary, and no manufacturers have applied to receive it, said Anthony Toderian, a spokesman for CSA in Montreal.

“There may be product out there that meets European and American standards,” said Toderian. “There’s currently no product out there that meets the CSA standard, and there’s also product available out on the market that doesn’t meet any standards whatsoever.”

The CSA standard calls for multiple-impact testing of alpine skiing and snowboard helmets. (Courtesy CSA) Unlike the U.S. and European standards, the CSA standard calls for multiple-impact testing, which means a helmet that passes the test may remain functional after it has suffered a blow as long as it is not damaged. The CSA standard also requires an independent lab — rather than the manufacturer — to test and certify the helmets.

Health Canada requires certification of hockey helmets and is reviewing comments on establishing a similar standard for the sale of ski and snowboard helmets, a spokesperson for the department said.

There is demand for certified helmets, said John Tustian, director of operations at the Lakeridge Resort in Uxbridge, northeast of Toronto.

Some other ski operators have opposed mandatory helmet use, saying they would have to police their guests, including foreigners who might not be aware of the requirements, and would face costs from providing helmet rentals.

On the slopes at Lakeridge, snowboarder David Bonder said he thinks helmets are a good idea.

“I wear when I dirt-bike,” said Bonder, adding that he started donning a helmet after breaking a few bones dirt-biking, but he does think he takes more risks when he’s wearing one. “Why wouldn’t I wear one here?”

Fellow snowboarder Jed Johnston agreed, saying he didn’t wear a helmet for about 10 years, but now thinks it’s a good idea because it “keeps people out of the hospital.”

More on my blog on helmets

New helmet regulations for Intrawest

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Oct 1, 6:42 PM

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Six months after actress Natasha Richardson died following a fall at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, the company that operates the facility has announced helmet requirements at all its North American resorts.

Vancouver-based Intrawest announced Thursday that when the ski season begins in a few weeks, it will recommend all skiers and snowboarders wear helmets.

The headgear will be mandatory for children and teens enrolled in ski and snowboard programs and for any student, regardless of age, taking part in freestyle terrain park programs.

“The objective is to raise the awareness of helmet use and the obligation of everyone to ski and ride in a controlled and responsible manner,” said Ian Galbraith, spokesman for Intrawest.

Galbraith said the move is an important “first step” that will increase awareness of the importance of helmets. But the company decided not to make them mandatory across the board.

“It’s an evolutionary thing. At this point, it’s a personal choice whether resort guests want to wear helmets or not,” he said.

Some may balk at even the limited helmet rules for children and teens, Galbraith said, but “we feel it’s the right way to go and it’s really the way the industry is heading.”

He said the new rules have been in the works for some time and are not a response to any particular incident.

However, the death of Richardson at Mont Tremblant earlier this year focused attention on the issue, although the new rules would not have forced Richardson, an adult, to don a helmet during her private ski lesson.

The 45-year-old actress, wife of actor Liam Neeson, died of a blood clot on the brain two days after the fall.

The Canadian Standards Association, which recommends skiers and snowboarders wear helmets, has said they can reduce the risk of head injury by 60 per cent.

“Ski hills making it mandatory is certainly going to help raise awareness,” said Anthony Toderian, spokesman for the association.

But “like any rule or law or any regulation, it can only go so far. It really needs to be the public themselves that recognize and be aware that these things can happen,” he said.

According to the Canadian Ski Council, there were about 4.2 million Canadian skiers and snowboarder in the 2007-2008 season.

Statistics from the U.S. show that nearly 50 per cent of skiers and snowboarders voluntarily donned helmets last season, up from 25 per cent six years earlier.

Intrawest said it will also update its advertising images to feature skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets. The company operates nine ski resorts in North America, including Mount Tremblant in Quebec, Panorama Mountain near Invermere, B.C., and Whistler Blackcomb, which will host alpine events for the 2010 Winter Games.


Helmets can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 80%.  Here's my ski helmet on a beautiful day this year at La Reserve (St. Donat).

Helmets can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 80%. Here's my ski helmet on a beautiful day this year at La Reserve (St. Donat).

In my opinion: Although a step in the right direction by Intrawest it should have gone further making it mandatory for all of its guests.  The government is still too slow and must legislate mandatory helmets for cyclists, skiers and snowboarders.  Cote Saint-Luc has been a pioneer in helmet legislation in Canada and I am proud to have championed this issue since first elected in 1990. Read more on my posts on this topic here or by searching “helmets” on this blog.

Letter to the editor, Montreal Gazette, Oct. 6, 2009


À mon avis: Même si un pas dans la bonne direction par Intrawest, il aurait dû faire obligatoire pour l’ensemble de ses clients. Le gouvernement est encore trop lent et doit légiférer la porte du casque obligatoire pour les cyclistes, skieurs et snowboarders. Cote Saint-Luc a été un pionnier dans la législation du casque au Canada et je suis fier d’avoir défendu cette question depuis ma première élection en 1990. Pour en savoir plus sur mes posts sur ce sujet en cherchant “helmets” sur ce blog.

Les Québécois défavorisés pour les soins d’urgence préhospitaliers

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La Presse


Lettre à l’éditeur par le conseiller Glenn J. Nashen

Le 7 avril 2009

* * *

Pourquoi les Québécois sont-ils encore défavorisés quand il s’agit des soins d’urgence préhospitaliers ? Il y a au moins 20 ans que l’on souligne la nécessité de se doter d’hélicoptères médicaux pour les traumatismes majeurs et les urgences médicales dans les régions rurales, mais nous n’en avons pas encore au Québec. Il est indéniable que les ambulanciers en soins avancés préhospitaliers possèdent les compétences nécessaires pour assurer la survie, sauf si vous habitez au Québec.

Et pourquoi le port du casque protecteur n’est-il pas obligatoire pour les cyclistes et les skieurs, alors qu’il est prouvé qu’il peut réduire de 80 % le risque d’un traumatisme crânien ? La prévention des blessures et la réduction du nombre d’hospitalisations et de visites aux services déjà encombrés permettraient des économies pour les contribuables et allégeraient le fardeau qui pèse sur notre système de santé déjà trop sollicité.

Le Québec se dit à l’avant-garde et fier de son esprit d’initiative, mais il reste loin derrière en matière de soins d’urgence préhospitaliers et de préparation aux situations d’urgence. Il est grand temps de rattraper le temps perdu. Ambulances aériennes, ambulanciers paramédicaux de soins avancés, casques protecteurs et vaste programme de formation à la réanimation cardio-respiratoire : voilà des facteurs qui permettent de sauver des vies. Il est temps d’investir là où ça compte vraiment, car nos vies en dépendent.

Glenn J. Nashen

Conseiller municipal (Sécurité publique)

Côte Saint-Luc

Quebecers short-changed in pre-hospital emergency medical care

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April 3, 2009

Montreal Gazette
Letters to the editor (published Apr. 4, 2009)

Re: MDs call for air ambulance, Gazette, April 2, 2009

Why is it that Quebecers continue to be short changed when it comes to pre-hospital emergency medical care? Calls for air ambulance helicopters for major trauma and medical emergencies in rural areas has been going on for 20 years or more but we still have none in Quebec. The life-saving skills of advanced care paramedics is undeniable, unless you live in Quebec.

And why aren’t helmets mandatory for cyclists, or for skiers, when they are proven to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 80%. The prevention of injury and reduction in visits to already crowded emergency departments and hospitalization would result in huge savings to taxpayers and would ease the burden on our over-stretched health care system.

Quebec prides itself in leadership and innovation yet trails far behind in pre-hospital emergency medical care and preparedness. Time to play catch up right now. Air ambulances, advanced care paramedics, helmets and wide-spread education in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation all save lives. Time to invest where it really counts.  Our lives depend on it.

Glenn J. Nashen
City Councillor (Public Safety)
Cote Saint-Luc

Postscript:  I have been advocating for legalization of paramedics in Quebec for 30 years.  Despite the widespread use of the word “paramedic” in Quebec over the last few years the province still does not permit ambulance technicians to perform advanced life support as in nearly all other jurisdictions across North America.

In the mid-90s I worked with then MNA Robert Libman to introduce helicopter air ambulances.  We asked the government to implement such a critical service but 15 years later the same questions are being asked.

Cotes Saint-Luc became the first municipality in Canada to legislate the wearing of bike helmets when I introduced this life-saving proposition.  This law has since spread widely across Canada but is still not mandatory here in Quebec.

Search this blog for more on paramedics, bike helmets and emergency medical services.

If you want to make a difference please call or write to your Member of the Quebec National Assembly and ask for support in legalizing advanced care paramedics, launching an air ambulance helicopter service and requiring all cyclists and skiers to wear a helmet.

On helmets and safety

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The recent tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson after a fall on the beginner run at Mont-Tremblant underscores the critical need for helmet legislation across Quebec.

Cote Saint-Luc became the first municipality in Canada to enact a bylaw making bike helmets mandatory 18 years ago and we called upon Quebec to take action province-wide.  Yet no Quebec helmet law exists to date and preventable injuries and even deaths occur each year.    It is a shame that Quebec has yet to take action.

More than 80% of traumatic brain injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet.

As an avid cyclist and having served five years on the Canadian Ski Patrol I cannot emphasize how important it is to wear a proper helmet for biking, in-line skating, skiing, ice skating and tobogganing.

You can search this blog for more on helmets or click the links below.

And if you feel as I do, please call your Member of the National Assembly.

Trauma and injury prevention, Montreal Children’s Hospital

CBC Living Montreal: Injury prevention – helmets