The Rise of Helmet Use, And What We Are To Do Next
There has been a consistent rise in the use of helmets on the ski fields, and there has been even more research placed on player welfare in professional sports. Most notably in the NFL, where there have been studies on what a lifetime of playing football can do to the human brain and the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) with multiple concussions. The outcome of this research suggests there is not much that a helmet will do when it comes to stopping a concussion.
In the NRL competition in Australia, helmets are not used. By looking at suck footage below. You will see those head injuries are a part of every game. Headgear is used in place of a helmet. More about that later.
THE SCHUMACHER EFFECT
There is a theory that the rise of helmet use on the ski slopes was due to the tragic accident of Michael Schumacher. No other higher profile celebrity has fallen so hard and gone through so much not to recover.
I think the rise in the use of helmets is the result of the very, very slow progression of elite athletes and celebrities wearing them. Gone are the days of magazines offering more money if the trick gets nailed without a helmet on. They just want the shot and safety is now a feature of this.
The biggest advocate of helmet use is Jeremey Jones, who has signed with a sponsorship deal with POC a long time ago. Now look at any halfpipe competition and try and spot one rider who is not wearing a helmet. The best in the business Shaun White won’t drop into the pipe without wearing one, and this I believe this is rubbing off on the groms.
But would Shaun have changed his attitude if it was not for Kevin Pearce having his fall in Park City back in 2009? If it was not for his helmet, he would be dead. He was on a path to take the crown and the documentary they were making made a turn from how he was going to become the best halfpipe athlete to his recovery from that awful crash. No link here, it’s nothing you want to see. But I do recommend watching his documentary The Crash Reel; it’s a truly inspiring film about him defying all odds and….. Well, you will have to watch the movie.
Now that helmet use is on the rise, we tend to feel a lot safer on the snow. By feeling safer, we tend to take some more risks. I can tell you that when I’m not wearing my helmet, I’m riding like a little bitch.
THE NUMBERS ARE STACKING UP
Natalia Hawk wrote about the Australian Centre for Research for snowbest.com into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) from a study done in 2013 by researchers from the University of Ballarat. The study showed that although more skiers than snowboarders are admitted to a hospital, skiers most commonly present with lower-limb injuries and are unlikely to end up in the emergency department.
It’s the snowboarders that are going to present more frequently to the emergency department. Specifically, evidence supports that its young male snowboarders who are ending up in a hospital with upper limb and head injuries.
According to ACRISP, almost two-thirds of all hospital-treated snow injuries in 2013 were sustained by young male participants, with falls being the most common cause, making up 72% of emergency department admissions in total.
ACRISP’s recommendation? Those young male participants put on “personal protective equipment” in order to decrease the impact of falls.
IT’S NOT THE HELMET THAT IS STOPING THE INJURIES
Ms. Hawke’s research is backed by a study a study from 2006 to 2012 and published in 2014.
The ski field where they measured all the results is Levi in Finland. This is the same ski resort where we did a lot of testing for DRÍFA, and came up with the idea to include removable protection in all the outerwear as we were taking a lot of heavy falls in the terrain park. This time in Finland led the brand to where it is today.
A DEEP DIVE INTO SOME STATS
43% of Ski Accidents happen in the lower extremity, where 15% happen for head injuries. The head is by the way much more important to protect first, but with each fall you are hurting somewhere else in the lower extremity which most people don’t have protected, so the use of personal protection in pants is needed in conjunction with a helmet.
59% of Snowboard accidents happen in the upper extremity, where 12% happen for head injuries. Same goes for what is mentioned above and why DRÍFA has included the elbow protection in the jackets.
When you look at skiers Vs snowboarders which everyone likes to make the comparison, but the results are quite similar. Skiers injure themselves mainly on-piste 72%, and Snowboarders 70%. There is a slight increase when it comes to the terrain park where 25% of injuries come from snowboarders and opposed to 19% for skiers. Mountain safety is on the rise. More people are buying helmets, but avoiding other parts of the body which is crazy.
After being in Levi, and a lot of places all over the world, I can say that Levi is nowhere near as challenging as some. You will see in Table 3 where it lists that out of 1,000 ski days there is 1.9% chance of injury, opposed to a 2.6% chance at Mammoth Mountain in the US which is considered an extreme mountain. When you look at Cairngorm in Scotland, the rate goes up to 3.7%, which they go on to describe that Nordic people are more experienced than their counterparts, which is proven when looking at the medal tally from the 2018 Olympics.
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
When you fall in Nth America or Japan, depending on where you are going, your head hits powder. More often than not in Japan, but they have some wild tree runs! When you fall in Australia and New Zealand, nine times out of ten your body hits the ice. Hard-packed ice.
DRÍFA searched for the right materials for personal protection to combine with the rise of helmet use. That led us to New Zealand where the toughest game in the world is played, rugby.
We used lightweight and durable padding but modified it to perform under the coldest of conditions. It does get cold on a rugby field, and it’s been tested at -30ºC/-22 ºF and the protection will function as normal. To evolve in snow sports, you need to take the falls. Your helmet will help you, but all research shows that is not where the majority of injuries are going to come from.
Your helmet will help you, but all research shows that is not where the majority of injuries are going to come from. DRÍFA products will help keep you out of the emergency department and keep you on the slopes.
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