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Helmets Reduce Skiing, Snowboarding Head Injuries Say Researchers

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Researchers in Canada who systematically reviewed data from available relevant studies concluded that wearing helmets reduced the risk of head injury among skiers and snowboarders by 35 per cent with no increased risk of neck injury.
You can read about the study conducted by researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta in a paper that was published online in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, CMAJ on 1 February.
Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities that carry a degree of risk: traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and serious injury in this group of sports.
Estimates from several countries suggest that 19 per cent of injuries reported by ski patrols and hospital ERs are to the head and 4 per cent are to the neck.
In their background information, co-authors Kelly Russell, Josh Christie, and Brent Hagel wrote that despite the absence of a systematic review of the available evidence, skiers and snowboarders are increasingly advised to wear helmets to prevent head injuries, while others suggest wearing a helmet can increase risk of neck injury, especially in children because of their greater head to body ratio.
So, for this study, they searched electronic databases, lists of conference papers and references for any that mentioned words like head injury or trauma, skiing or snowboarding, and helmet, and included only those that used a control group, compared skiers or snowboarders who wore helmets with those that did not, and had at least one objectively measured outcome such as head injury and neck or cervical injury.
They found 12 studies from Europe, Asia and North America met their criteria: 10 were case-control, 1 was a case-control/crossover, and 1 was a cohort study.
After analyzing the pooled data, the researchers found that skiers and snowboarders who wore helmets were 35 per cent significantly less likely to incur an head injury than those who did not (odds ratio OR 0.65, with 95 per cent confidence interval CI ranging from 0.55 to 0.79 per cent).
The results were similar for those that used controls without an injury, those that used controls with an injury other than a head or neck injury and studies that included children under the age of 13.
The researchers also found that wearing helmets was not linked to an increased risk of neck injury.
"The use of helmets significantly protects against head injuries among skiers and snowboarders," wrote the authors, adding that:
"Risks of head injury can be reduced by 35 per cent," and they also added that "between 2 and 5 of every 10 head injuries among helmet users could be prevented".
"Based on this evidence, we encourage helmet use," they concluded.
"The effect of helmets on the risk of head and neck injuries among skiers and snowboarders: a meta-analysis."
Kelly Russell, Josh Christie, Brent E. Hagel.
CMAJ, Published online ahead of print February 1, 2010.
DOI: CMAJ 10.1503/cmaj.091080
Source: Canadian Medical Association.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today
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Keywords:

injury, neck injury, injury neck, injury found, injury use, injury leading, injury reduced, injury read, injury skiers, injury trauma
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