01.06.2009

Peak body recommends helmets for alpine sports

There is now sufficient research and clinical evidence to encourage participants in alpine sports to wear protective helmets, according to Sports Medicine Australia (SMA), the peak body for sports medicine and science.

The issue of alpine sport safety received wide media attention following the recent tragic death of Natasha Richardson, following a ski fall in Quebec.

This incident, plus statistics which show that many preventable injuries occur on the snow fields every season, has led to SMA’s recommendation that all alpine sport participants should consider wearing helmets.

SMA National Board member and keen recreational skier, Dr Peter Nathan says there is very good evidence showing that helmets reduce the risk of head injury.

“The literature regarding helmets and their role in preventing head injuries in snow sports generally demonstrates the beneficial effect of helmets,” said Dr Nathan.

The advent of snow-boarders has also seen head injuries to skiers, with collisions between skiers and snowboarders just as damaging as impact with stationery objects.

“All participants in snow sports should consider wearing helmets regardless of skill and ability, as injuries can occur either while you are skiing/snowboarding, most likely due to high velocity impacts, or when you are standing by, when collected by another skier or snowboarder,” said Dr Nathan

SMA will be updating its existing snow safety resources to reflect the new recommendations and is embarking on further research to support more detailed recommendations and guidelines. This will include research into the efficacy of the various types of helmets currently on the market in Australia.

SMA’s snow safety resources include Preventing Cross Country Injuries, Preventing Downhill Skiing Injuries and Preventing Snowboarding Injuries.

These resources promote snow safety messages such as:

Undertake good preparation

  • Undertake pre-season conditioning and training to build up your fitness, strength and flexibility.
  • Take ski/snowboard lessons to develop skills and safety techniques.
  • Don’t ski/snowboard to warm up. Warm up and stretch before any type of activity and cool down and stretch afterwards.

Wear the right gear

  • All participants in alpine sports are encouraged to wear protective helmets.
  • Seek professional advice when choosing or hiring equipment. Select equipment suited to your activity, skill level and size.
  • Wear clothing, including gloves that are waterproof and breathe. Dress in layers so you can adjust them to your body temperature.
  • Make sure boots are fitted and comfortable, durable and waterproof, with thermal protection.

 Learn good technique and practices

  • When skiing, hold your poles correctly. Put the strap on your wrist and then hold the ski pole so that the strap is included in your grip.
  • When snowboarding, make sure your snowboard is attached to you by a leash, to prevent injuries to others on the slopes.
  • Be aware of the grading of ski-runs. Only ski on runs suited to your skill level.

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Media enquiries: Amanda Wilson, National Media Manager, phone 03 9674 8703 or mobile 0412 224 729.

Media interviews: Dr Peter Nathan, mobile 0412 229 351.