Features

Published: Saturday January 11, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 15, 2014 MYT 8:50:57 PM

Helmet sense

With all the snow that the United States has seen over the past few days, skiers will be flocking to ski resorts to enjoy the fresh powder. If you do head out, remember to be careful while having fun.

Retired Formula One legend Michael Schumacher suffered a terrible brain injury while skiing in France. This reminds us all how fragile we are when going too fast, doing tricks or going off the beaten path. It has been reported that sales of ski helmets have gone up since the announcement of Schumacher’s brain injury.

Dr Emil L. Matarese, director of the Concussion Center at the Capital Institute for Neurosciences in New Jersey, has this to say about skiing brain injuries and the use of helmets: “Snow sport helmets are important safety features, but they will not always prevent concussion and traumatic brain injury and should not provide a false sense of security for skiers and other athletes.”

He said the serious brain injury of Michael Schumacher, the most successful Formula One driver in history, underscores the limits of helmets to prevent traumatic brain injury. Schumacher, retired from racing, sustained a traumatic brain injury while skiing at a resort in France.

Dr Matarese said a helmet does not prevent the brain from impacting the inner surface of the skull during a high-impact crash.

“Even with a helmet, the brain is still aggressively jarred and makes impact with the inner surface of the skull,” he said.

He said a helmet may absorb some impact, but will not eliminate the inertia that forces the brain to slam against the skull.

“People think having the skull encased in a helmet will fully protect their brains. That is just not the case,” he said. He added that a helmet also does little to prevent rotational injuries that can cause serious harm to the base of the brain.

Dr Matarese, however, said helmets do prevent lacerations that “crack open” the skull and cut into surrounding tissue.

He said the message is not to eliminate the use of helmets, but to recognise that high-speed skiing, risky jumps and skiing outside established ski runs carry risks. He noted that younger brains are especially vulnerable to serious and permanent injuries.

Dr Erol Veznedaroglu, a neurosurgeon and director of the Capital Institute for Neurosciences, said anyone skiing or riding a bicycle or playing high-impact sport should wear a helmet.

“But we know a helmet is not a licence to engage in risky behaviour with the idea that the helmet will always protect you. And anyone who sustains a head injury, regardless of whether or not they were wearing a helmet, should seek immediate treatment and follow up with a neurologist experienced in concussion,” he said. — The Times Union of Albany/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Sidebar to SkiSafe story (11/1/14)

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