The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) reports that the chance of being seriously injured while skiing or snowboarding is less than1 in a million and that there were only 45 reported fatalities linked to the sportin 2005. This number may seem small, but the majority of the serious injuries were traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) and nearly all the fatalities were due to a TBI.
Most skiers and snowboarders do not realize the importance of wearing a helmet until it is too late. An experienced skier in Vail thought he was going down a routine run when he suddenly lost control and crashed hard on the mountain. He went out cold for a few minutes but got up and finished his run. A half an hour later he began to convulse inside the ski lodge and was taken into the hospital. He found out he suffered a severe concussion and was lucky to escape any other serious injuries. He walked away with a sore back and a raging headache.
The ski-related deaths of Michael Kennedy (JFK’s nephew) and Sonny Bono in 1997 and 1998 raised awareness for the need of helmets in skiing and snowboarding. The head of the trauma department at Aspen Valley Hospital says that the number of severe head injuries due to snow sports has decreased in the past 2 years as more and more skiers and snowboarders decide to wear helmets. The use of helmets does not necessarily prevent injuries; rather, it decreases the severity of the head trauma. Helmets protect the head by softening the impact and diffusing the force of a blow to the head.
Decreasing the degree of severity of the head trauma is important in all activities. “Most of your other organs you injure can recover well,” said the trauma director at Aspen Valley Hospital. “But once you seriously injure your brain, it never recovers 100 percent.”