Helmets should be mandatory on the slopes: paediatricians

OTTAWA—Helmets should be mandatory for skiers and snowboarders of all ages, says the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) in a new statement published today.
“Despite strong evidence that helmets prevent injuries, many still ski and snowboard without them,” said Dr. Natalie Yanchar, chair of the CPS Injury Prevention Committee and co-author of the new statement. “Through mandatory helmet legislation, governments can send a strong message that helmets are important and reduce the risk of brain injury, disability, and death.”
The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program has reported that snowboarding and downhill skiing are among the top three causes of injury related to snow and ice activities. Children and youth are at higher risk for ski and snowboarding injuries, including sprains and fractures and injury o the head and neck.  
“People think that because they are an experienced skier or snowboarder they won’t get injured. But they can’t control external factors like the terrain or other skiers who might not be as experienced,” said Dr. Yanchar. “The risk is especially high for children and youth, who have increased vulnerability to head injuries and take longer to recover.”
Among the recommendations, the CPS is advising that all skiers and snowboarders:
  • Wear the proper equipment including a helmet and goggles, plus wrist guards for snowboarding.
  • Check equipment at the start of each ski day to ensure that the boots fit and the bindings are adjusted correctly.
  • Avoid borrowing equipment and rent only from a reputable ski shop or resort.
  • Take lessons from a certified instructor.
  • Never ski or snowboard alone.
The CPS recommendations also have the support of U.S. paediatricians.
“Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports that carry a significant risk of injury, with head injuries being the most serious,” said H. Garry Gardner, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. “Helmets have been demonstrated to significantly reduce the risk of head injury, and advocacy efforts should focus on the mandatory use of helmets. Pediatricians should counsel families that skiers and snowboarders should always wear a helmet, at all ages and at all skill levels. The AAP strongly endorses the new CPS policy statement on skiing and snowboarding injury prevention.”
The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.


Additional resource:

  • More than 5,600 Canadians seriously injured every year from winter activities: Skiing and snowboarding lead to twice as many hospitalizations as hockey, Canadian Institute for Health Information, January 17, 2012

To access the full CPS position statement, visit: Skiing and snowboarding injury prevention.