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Snowboarding, Skiing: Head Injuries Up

Traumatic Brain, Spinal Cord Injuries Rising Along With Daredevil Moves
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 4, 2007 -- Planning to ski or snowboard this winter? Wearing a helmet on the slopes may cut your risk of head injury by 22% to 60%, a new report shows.

"We strongly recommend the use of helmets by all skiing and snowboarding participants," Canadian researchers write in Injury Prevention

They report that traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are rare but rising among snowboarders and skiers.

Data came from 24 studies on skiing and snowboarding injuries from countries including the U.S., Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria.

Here are the key findings:

  • Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury appear to be rising among skiers and snowboarders.
  • That trend matches the rise in acrobatic and high-speed moves on the slopes.
  • Young men are the most likely snowboarders and skiers to sustain such injuries.

Snowboarding and Skiing Safety

The report includes these tips on choosing a skiing or snowboarding helmet that fits properly:

  • The helmet should fit snugly. Don't buy one for kids to "grow into."
  • Use the helmet sizing chart. Each brand has its own chart.
  • If your helmet measurement falls between two sizes, choose the larger size.
  • Try on several helmet brands before picking one.
  • There shouldn't be any red spots or pressure spots on the head after using the helmet.

The reviewers -- who included Charles Tator, MD, PhD, of the University of Toronto's neurosurgery division -- also list these injury prevention tips:

  • Never ski or snowboard alone.
  • Maintain and check ski and snowboard equipment.
  • Exercise and stretch before each day of skiing or snowboarding.
  • Stay on marked trails.
  • Ski and snowboard responsibly.
  • Be alert to physical and environmental hazards.
  • Wear the appropriate gear, including helmets.
  • Ski and snowboard on hills that are within your ability and ski level.
  • Quit before becoming too tired.

(To learn how to get in shape for snowboarding, watch WebMD's video on snowboard preconditioning.)

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