Brain expert speaks on importance of wearing a helmet
November 15, 2002
Young snowboarders may be more on the ball than older skiers, at least when it comes to helmet use.Dr. James Kelly, medical director at the Chicago Neurological Institute, said young male snowboarders are the most likely group of snowsliders to wear helmets.”Helmet use is highest amongst snowboarders, males and those under 40,” Kelly said during a presentation Thursday night at the Given Institute.Kelly, who is also an associate professor of clinical neurology at Northwestern University, said that 40 to 50 percent of snowboarders in Colorado are now wearing helmets but only 20 to 25 percent of skiers are.And, he said, helmet use among advanced skiers is higher than among beginners.”The beginner thinks they are just going to be on the bunny hill and they are not at risk, and that’s a problem,” Kelly said.Does wearing a helmet on the hill matter?”We’re finding that helmets are indeed protective,” Kelly said, although you wouldn’t think anyone would need a brain expert to tell them that.Kelly also told an audience of about 35 people that skiing is the third-leading cause of recreational fatalities in Colorado after climbing/hiking and bicycling. And that when it comes to skiing, head injuries can be deadly.”Neurological injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among skiers and snowboarders,” Kelly said.And he cited one study that reported 12 percent of unhelmeted skiers suffered head injuries in skier-to-skier collisions, while helmeted skiers had no head injuries.”If you look at all the studies that have been done, helmets reduce the risk of brain injury in skiers and snowboarders by 74 percent,” Kelly said. “Helmeted brain injuries can occur certainly, and there are individuals who have had poor outcomes with helmets, but they are in the minority.”The doctor also recommended that people ski and ride in control and stay away from trees.Kelly’s presentation and visit to Aspen were sponsored by the Aspen Skiing Co, which was the first ski area operator in the country to make it mandatory that kids under 12 in ski school wear a helmet.The head injury expert is also giving presentations to the company’s ski patrollers, ski pros and other mountain employees.The Skico now offers $6 daily rentals of helmets at its Pro Mountain Sports and D&E ski and snowboard shops. It also plans to hold a variety of free helmet-demo days throughout the ski season.