Helmets can help reduce riskWhen snow falls, nobody’s happier than skiers and snowboarders. But when skiers and snowboarders fall, nobody’s happy. Especially if the fall results in an injury.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
When snow falls, nobody’s happier than skiers and snowboarders.
But when skiers and snowboarders fall, nobody’s happy.
Especially if the fall results in an injury.
“We’ve had some serious head and neck injuries over the past year,” said Jane Gisslen, director of emergency and urgent care at Fairview Red Wing Medical Center.
Skull fractures and concussions are most common for snowboarders, she added. The hospital probably sees three injured snowboarders for each skier.
“We think it’s a great sport,” she said, “but we want to be sure snowboarders take the necessary precautions and wear protective headgear. Kids need to wear helmets.”
Young people are the most at risk, Gisslen said. “They’re greater risk-takers. They believe nothing will happen to them.”
The folks at Welch Village Ski and Snowboard Area agree on the value of helmets for snowboarders and also for skiers, because the winter resort doesn’t like to see injuries, either.
“We encourage everyone to wear helmets,” said Stephanie Prink, communications manager — “especially freestyle skiers and snowboarders.”
Children are required to wear helmets in Welch’s Junior Development Ski Program and its Battalion program for young freestyle skiers and snowboarders. For children’s lessons helmets are encouraged, but not required.
Snowboarders can go anywhere at the ski area, plus there are two terrain parks with jumps and rail slides for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.
Helmets — which are available at Welch for $40 to $60 and at many sporting goods stores in a wide price range —are similar to bicycle helmets but cover more of the head, Prink said. They are lower over the ears and forehead. The snug-fitting helmets are warm, but also have vents.
“I wear one all the time now,” Prink said. “I prefer it to a stocking cap.”
The helmets are designed for high impact, Gisslen said. “They cushion the blow to the head and can prevent serious head injuries.”
“It definitely reduces the risk,” Prink agreed.
Gradually, use of helmets by snowboarders and skiers is becoming more common, just as bike helmets are now seen regularly.
On any given day, Prink said, she might look out at the hill and see 30 percent to 40 percent of the people wearing helmets.
Olympic athletes commonly use them.
Today’s helmets are designed to appeal to young people. Prink said they come in everything from floral designs to camouflage for boys.
Some kids like to cover them with stickers from all the ski areas they’ve visited, she noted. Welch gives out such stickers.
In addition to wearing helmets and well-fitting gear, Gisslen said, “People need to be sure they get instruction in the sport, and that they understand their own capabilities and their limitations.
Snowboards are harder to steer than skis are, she said. “There’s less recovery if you catch an edge. Until a person becomes skilled, there is less of a margin for error.”
In addition to head injuries, Fairview also has seen broken legs, arms and collarbones that snapped from impact on the frozen ground.
“You don’t want to ski or snowboard when you’re over-tired,” Gisslen said. “Your reflexes are slowed and you can’t respond as rapidly. We see a lot of injuries on the last run of the day.”
In a joint effort at trauma prevention, Welch and Fairview are in discussion now over the possibility of putting up signs that remind patrons to wear helmets.
“It’s great fun if you just take care of yourself,” Gisslen said. “Get good instruction in how to do it. Take a little extra precaution. ... We are all in this to make sure people enjoy the winter and the sport, and do it safely.”