Does wearing a helmet make you more likely to take risks on the slopes?

The great helmet debate rages on

Above: PC- Ed Blomfield

New research from the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery by researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock has revealed that despite helmet usage almost doubling from 43% to 81% during the 8 year study, head injury did not significantly decrease. Regardless of the massive jump in helmet usage, the injury rate only dropped from 49% to 43%.

“Snowboarders wearing helmets were actually more likely to suffer a more severe injury”

We were left scratching our heads after reading the results of the study, not only due to the steady injury rate, but the fact that skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets were actually more likely to suffer a more severe injury (such as an intracranial haemorrhage). Although helmeted riders were better off for scalp lacerations, cervical spine injuries and skull fractures.

The study concludes by reinforcing “the importance of safe skiing practices and trauma evaluation after high-impact injury, regardless of helmet use”. The researchers behind the study are quick to point out that they all wear helmets when riding, and urge others to do the same. So the question is not whether or not to wear a helmet, but whether wearing a helmet inflates people’s bravado. Helmets reduce the risk of the wearer sustaining completely preventable injuries, but do they encourage people to be hazardous on the slopes?

“The question is not whether or not to wear a helmet, but whether wearing a helmet inflates people’s bravado”

Does the helmet give the wearer a ‘safety blanket’? The study showed that helmeted skiers and snowboarders were more likely to hit stationary objects, which “may suggest that helmet use promotes increased risk taking behaviour”. We’ve seen more than our fair share of punters borrow their mates helmet before dropping into the pro line kickers, despite the fact that they can barely link turns.

René rocks a helmet

It’s unfortunately common to see people out of control on the slopes, whether it’s a drunk weekend warrior trying to make it down after a particularly boozy lunch or that annoying bloke who refuses to get lessons trying to keep up with his mates. One of the major reasons for wearing a helmet is to protect against other people. You might be the next Travis Rice, but matey behind you careening down the slopes out of control doesn’t give a toss who you are, he’ll still take you out. Wearing a helmet on the slopes is a personal choice for most, although some domes insist on riders slapping one on in lessons or when riding freestyle. Wearing a helmet doesn’t automatically grant you VIP membership to the “I’m a Massive Dickhead Club’ the way that it used to. Scroll through the ‘Gram and you’ll see a bunch of pro riders rocking lids.

“You might be the next Travis Rice, but matey behind you careening down the slopes out of control doesn’t give a toss who you are”

Like most products on the market, helmets have undergone some significant changes in the last decade. Probably one of the largest being the introduction of MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System). The new technologies being used in helmets reduce the stress that gets unleashed during an impact. MIPS, for instance, allows the helmet and your head to rotate independently to stop one specific part of the brain taking the full whack. MIPS claims to offer better protection than a standard helmet as it absorbs and redirects the energy from impacts.

One possible theory for the steady rate of head injuries could be the quality of helmet being used, a lot of helmets on the market are a ‘one and done’ style. Even if the outer shell of your helmet seems fine, the inner might be cracked and thus unable to absorb impacts effectively. All helmets have a shelf life, and should be replaced after one significant crash or collision. Check your helmet thoroughly before each use, what’s the point in wearing one if it’s not doing its job?

Hopefully this study can be a wake up call to those who think rocking a helmet makes them invincible, be smart on the slopes kids. Got a strong opinion on #HelmetGate? Drop us a message with your two cents. Regardless of your stance in this debate, we think both parties can agree on one thing. No one, not one single person, over the age of 10 should be wearing a ‘wacky’ helmet cover. Ever.

Never. Not even on a Stag Do.

Whether you’re new to lidding up or have been rocking the brain bucket for yonks, there’s new styles out there for everyone. Take a look and see our favourite helmets for 2019/20. 


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