Do you ¬†wear a helmet? It seems that there’s many out there who still don’t, and often various reasons are given, however, there’s still much to discuss on the details of how helmets affect injuries, performance, the outcome and, ultimately, do they help or make things worse?¬† However¬†there’s still too, a lot¬†of anecdote and “stands to reason” arguments round which don’t hold water or are least remain unproven or unsubstantiated.

Risk compensation is one area where there’s a lot of supposition, but not the supporting evidence and it’s been suggested that risk compensation is less of a risk than many claim it to be [1]. Also,¬†in a study of rugby players, it was found that the wearing of head protection made no difference to the level of risk compensation [2].

There’s also a very¬†complex series of factors that are interrelated which makes it hard to isolate a single answer to the oversimplified question of ¬†“do helmets work?”.

Such factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Mild and minor head injuries, such as mild concussion, are reported more often and treated in a much more serious manner than in the past
  • The equipment available to skiers allows them to ski more challenging terrain and perhaps at speeds beyond that of what they would have done in the past (How many resorts are now implementing patrols to control the speed of skiers?)
  • Park skiing is far more prevalent than it used to be, where impacts with terrain features and falls from height (jumps) are more common than they used to be

I don’t think it’s as simple a question to answer to just look at injury rates, the context is complex and nuanced, and helmet use is, in terms of the lifetime of skiing, still quite a young innovation so I doubt a definitive answer can be had.

However, based on my own anecdotal evidence with a sample group of one, I’m also a biker/motorcyclist, and I know my helmet has saved me several times in accidents (I used to race off-road), and in skiing I’ve had two incidents, both caused by other skiers on busy pistes, where a helmet has prevented me sustaining a far more serious injury than had I been wearing only a hat (in one case, a bent ski pole and dented helmet from where my head hit the pole when I went down).

So while there may not be the evidence to support the argument that a helmet definitely will¬†help, I see even less evidence to say that a helmet will hinder, so I’ll take the safe option and, bearing in mind the research that suggests risk compensation isn’t as big a deal as some might have you¬†think, I will ¬†continue to wear a helmet.

We welcome your comments and discussion on this emotive topic (and yes, powpowpow stickers are available, just drop us a line and we can send you some!)

[1] Br J Sports Med 2010;44:204-206 Factors associated with self-reported risk-taking behaviour on ski slopes G Ruedl et al

[2]¬†June 2008 School of Risk and Safety Sciences, The University of New South Wales: Andrew S. McIntosh et al “Does Padded Headgear Prevent Head Injury in Rugby Union Football?”