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Helmets may not reduce brain injuries in skiers, snowboarders

With 70 percent of people who participate in winter skiing and snowboarding wearing helmets while they are on the slopes, most people would have predicted that the number of serious head injuries would have decreased, especially knowing the number of helmet wearers has tripled in the last decade.

However, even with a major increase in the number of people who are wearing helmets, the number of people who are diagnosed with brain injuries because of skiing and snowboarding accidents has increased. Overall the number of youth sports-related brain injuries has increased 250 percent between 1996 and 2010.

Although minor head injuries decreased because of helmet use, many experts believe that the number of severe head injuries in skiing and snowboarding hasn't gone down because people have a false sense of security when they are on the slopes with a helmet. They also say that because of helmets, more people are engaging in risky terrain parks, and using ungroomed skiing areas.

A reason for the increase in brain injuries across all youth sports could be that more people are aware of the symptoms because of grass-roots awareness campaigns, and therefore more injuries are diagnosed and reported.

People should work to prevent brain injuries, and facilities should ensure that they warn patrons of certain risks. Product manufacturers also might play a role in trying to reduce the number of people experiencing brain injuries while using their products. Brain injuries can be life-altering and deadly. However, if a person sustains a catastrophic injury in West Virginia, they should understand their rights and options for compensation.

Source: The New York Times, "Ski Helmet Use Isn't Reducing Brain Injuries," Kelley McMillan, Dec. 31, 2013

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