Skiers and snowboarders are not required to wear helmets on the slopes. However, there is a growing push to change the current status and make helmet use mandatory for skiers and snowboarders. Our Denver ski accident attorneys recommend that you consider the significant safety advantages of wearing a helmet while skiing Colorado’s mountains. We also encourage your friends and family members to do the same.
Most Common Ski and Snowboard Injuries
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the most common injury suffered by skiers and snowboarders is head injury. Accounting for 20% of all ski and snowboard accident injuries, many instances of head trauma result from collision with an inanimate object such as a tree or fencing.
Snowboarders have a 50% higher rate of head and neck injury, and are much more likely to sustain traumatic brain injury when involved in an accident on the slopes. Almost 80% of head injuries incurred by snowboarders that require medical attention fall under the category of TBI. This rate is closer to 40% for skiers.
It’s a fact that helmets reduce the chances of a serious head or brain injury. The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that helmets could prevent 7,700 head injuries each year. If you are planning on skiing or snowboarding in Colorado's High Country, take steps to protect yourself by planning for all eventualities and wearing the appropriate gear. A category under which helmets certainly fall.
A Look at Traumatic Brain Injury
TBI is a serious injury with life-altering consequences. The injury may also prove fatal. The above-linked meta-analysis from the NIH found that anywhere from 42-88% of all ski and snowboard accident related deaths are a result of TBI. Even at the low end, that’s a shockingly high number of TBI-related deaths resulting from accidents on the slopes.
When not fatal, TBI can result in progressive brain atrophy, increased vulnerability to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that can occur after multiple concussions. It may also result in memory and concentration problems, mood and personality disorders, inexplicable aggression, and a host of other serious, limiting, and uncomfortable consequences.
Traumatic brain injury may necessitate ongoing care from a medical professional - sometimes in a long-term care facility - in addition to various forms of therapy and near-constant effort to overcome. Even with help, however, TBI is irreversible. Future damage can be stopped, but the damage that has occured to the brain is permanent. If you have sustained a head injury on the slopes, even if you haven’t lost consciousness, it is important to have a thorough examination from a trusted medical provider. Symptoms of TBI are not always immediate, though effective treatment requires prompt diagnosis and intervention.
The unfortunate death of many skiers, many of whom are beginners colliding with trees, has led to an increase in voluntary helmet use, especially for children. Many ski resorts mandate helmet use for children under 12 who are enrolled in resort-sponsored programs and classes. Some, like Steamboat, require skiers under 17 who are enrolled in a ski program to wear a helmet.
Helmet Use May Not be Enough
Helmet use while skiing or snowboarding is recommended by the National Ski Patrol. However, the organization points out that helmets provide significantly less protection for severe head injuries at speeds greater than 12 to 14 miles per hour. This makes conscientious skiing and riding top priorities for safety. Helmets are better as the second line of defense.
We recommend following the National Ski Areas Association’s Code of Responsibility:
- Always stay in control
- People ahead of you have the right of way
- Stop in a safe place for you and others
- Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield
- Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment
- Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails
- Know how to use the lifts safely
Remembering this code of responsibility can help keep everyone safe. If you are a newer to the slopes, consider taking lessons and only ski hills you have the skills to maneuver. If you find yourself on a slope that exceeds your ability level, move to the edge and side-step down. This can help prevent your colliding with an inanimate object or another skier. Collision on the slopes comes with its own legal issues and is always best to avoid.
Do You Need Help?
Have you sustained an injury while skiing or snowboarding? Jonathan Sar and Sean Leventhal may be able to help you secure compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Avid skiers themselves, our Denver personal injury lawyers spend as much time as possible on the slopes with their families, making them familiar not just with the legal aspects of ski and snowboard accidents, but with the environment, conditions, and factors that often surround these tragic events.
If you’ve suffered a skiing or snowboarding-related injury, call us today at 720-667-3030 for a free consultation. We welcome clients from Aurora, Cherry Creek, and throughout Colorado Ski Country.