Despite increased helmet use, the number of snow-sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) keeps rising, prompting calls by experts to implement a variety of targeted prevention strategies, with a special focus on educating parents about the protective value of helmets and the role modeling effect the parent's use has on their child's decision to wear a helmet.
A 2012 study in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that, while 83% of children and teens surveyed at one Colorado ski resort always wearing a helmet, the odds of helmet use were 9.55 times higher if their parent wore a helmet than if they did not. Contrary to other published research, helmet-wearing behavior was not found to decline as age increased.
On the basis of their findings, researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado said that "interventions and education targeted at increasing child helmet use during snow sports should be focused on educating parents about the protective value of helmets and the role modeling effect the parent's helmet use [has] on their child's decision to wear a helmet.
The reasons prevention efforts are so important are clear from a recent study published in the journal Injury Prevention,  which found that teens are more likely to suffer snow-sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) than children, and that the teen injury rate had steadily increased over the period 1997-2010.
The study, by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, is believed to be the first to use nationally representative data to examine snow-sports-related TBIs among children and adolescents.
While researchers were unable to directly determine the reasons for the increase, they speculated that it might be attributed in part to several factors, including:
"Our results may have implications for targeted interventions involving helmet use in injury prevention," wrote lead author of the 2013 study, Janessa M. Graves, MD. Among the prevention techniques called for by Graves and her colleagues were:
The use of helmets has been demonstrated to be extremely effective in reducing the incidence of serious head injuries during skiing and snowboarding;
Despite these proven benefits, and the recommendations encouraging their use by governmental and medical organizations, the goal of near-universal use of helmets among child and teen skiers and snowboarders has proved elusive.
According to the 2013 University of Washington study
Other studies have found that although the incidence of head injuries is relatively low, serious head injuries such as TBI and even death are reported each year in skiing and snowboarding. From 1980 to 2001, TBIs were the primary cause of 67% of skiing fatalities among children in Colorado and remain the leading cause of death in both skiing and snowboarding.[10,12,13]
Lara McKenzie, a Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, offers these tips for parents on how to make sure their children don't need a trip to the emergency department after skiing or snowboarding:
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