New Study Suggests Ski and Snowboard Helmets Should be Required

February 20, 2013 — By

We have written about the importance of wearing  helmets several times before in the context of riding bicycles and youth sports, but a recent study from Johns Hopkins reminds us that helmets are extremely important during snow activities as well.   According to the study, approximately 120,000 ski and snowboard related head injuries are reported in the United States each year, and “head injuries are the chief cause of death among skiers and snowboarders.”

In 2011, New Jersey became the first state to pass a law requiring helmets for skiers and snowboarders 18 years and younger, an effort that many advocates across the country refer to as “Lids on Kids.”  A website by the same name ( offers information about selecting the right helmet and injury prevention.   Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting helmets in the prevention of injuries, it is unclear whether we will see more states pass snow sport helmet laws. California has tried twice but the laws were vetoed both times, first by Gov. Schwarzenegger, then by Gov. Brown, for what appear to be largely political reasons.  (

Some critics claim that helmets impede visibility and cause skiers and snowboarders to take unnecessary risks. Dr. Adil H. Haider, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says, “These are all just excuses. Our research shows none of those theories hold water.”

The sleek design of modern helmets means that visibility is almost never an issue.  However, it is important that the helmets fit correctly. Helmets that are too loose are unlikely to provide the right protection.  It is also important to use a helmet designed specifically for snow sports.

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) recommends the use of snow-sport helmets, especially among children who ski at slower speeds, where helmets can make the greatest difference between life and death.  According to the NSAA, helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries 30-50%.

Whether or not you wear a helmet when out on the slopes, it is important to know the signs of concussion or traumatic head injury. Take note of the symptoms below and seek medical attention as quickly as possible.   When in doubt, always see a doctor.  The story of actress Natasha Richardson who hit her head during a beginners ski lesson and refused medical treatment because she felt fine, only to die shortly thereafter, is a solemn reminder to take all head injuries very seriously, no matter how minor they may at first appear or feel.



Observed by Others:

Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused
Forgets where they are
Moves clumsily
Answers questions slowly
Loses consciousness, even briefly
Shows behavior or personality changes
Cannot recall events prior to the impact or fall
Cannot recall events after the impact or fall


Reported by Victim:

Headache or “pressure” in head
Nausea or vomiting
Balance problems or dizziness
Double or blurry vision
Sensitivity to light or sound
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
Concentration or memory problems
Doesn’t “feel right”


Signs of Serious Brain Injury Requiring Immediate Medical Attention (Call 9-1-1):

One pupil larger than the other
Drowsiness or inability to wake up
A headache that gets worse and does not go away
Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
Repeated vomiting or nausea
Slurred speech
Convulsions or seizures
Inability to recognize people or places
Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation
Unusual behavior
Loss of consciousness


Symptoms source:

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