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CPSC Staff Recommends Use of Helmets for Skiers, Snowboarders to Prevent Head Injuries

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff is recommending skiers and snowboarders wear helmets to help prevent head injuries from falls and collisions. In a study released today (pdf format), the CPSC staff concluded that helmet use by skiers and snowboarders could prevent or reduce the severity of 44 percent of head injuries to adults, and 53 percent of head injuries to children under the age of 15. The proportion of skiing and snowboarding head injuries is higher in children than in any other age group.

In 1997, there were 17,500 head injuries associated with skiing and snowboarding. The CPSC study estimates that 7,700 head injuries -- including 2,600 head injuries to children -- could be prevented or reduced in severity each year by using skiing or snowboarding helmets. The study also shows that helmet use could prevent about 11 skiing- and snowboarding- related deaths annually.

"We know that helmet use can prevent serious head injuries in a wide variety of sports and activities, including bicycling and in-line skating," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "This study of skiing and snowboarding shows that helmets can prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries on the slopes, just as they do on the streets."

The study of head injuries associated with skiing and snowboarding was conducted as part of CPSC's ongoing work to reduce head injuries in a variety of sports and activities.

In addition to the CPSC staff study, research in other countries has shown that helmets can help prevent head injuries to skiers. In Sweden, a national study found that head injuries among skiers wearing helmets were 50 percent lower than for skiers not wearing helmets.

According to the National Sporting Goods Association, nearly 10 million people participate in alpine skiing more than once each year. Between 1993 and 1997, the number of people who snowboard increased from 1.8 million to 2.5 million.

The CPSC study found that while overall hospital emergency room-treated injuries associated with skiing declined substantially between 1993 and 1997, the number of head injuries remained relatively constant. During the same period, snowboarding injuries nearly tripled and the number of head injuries from snowboarding increased five-fold.

From 1993 to 1997, the estimated number of hospital emergency room-treated injuries of all types associated with skiing declined from 114,400 to 84,200. The injuries have dropped, in part, because of improvements in ski equipment, such as redesigned bindings, which have reduced injuries to the legs. Head injuries were essentially unchanged at 13,600 in 1993 and 12,700 in 1997. For snowboarding, hospital emergency room treated injuries increased from 12,600 in 1993 to 37,600 in 1997. The number of head injuries associated with snowboarding increased from 1,000 in 1993 to 5,200 in 1997.

The CPSC recommends wearing helmets specifically designed for skiing or snowboarding.

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