Flying down the slope, the ice scrapes against your skis. You start going faster, then faster, and keep accelerating until you are unable to stop. The wind blowing through your hair is frigid. Going into the next turn, you feel one of your skis catch an edge. You see your binding released as you are flung off the trail. You smack your head against a tree. The red stain around your head is a harsh contrast on the white blanket of snow. Unable to move, you have to wait for someone to find you to call ski patrol.
If you had worn a helmet, your head would’ve been protected.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, teens are one of the most accident-prone groups on the mountains. In a recent poll conducted through Instagram, 40 out of 103 people asked answered that they do not wear helmets when they hit the slopes. The group that answered was people between the ages of 13 to 24. Out of that group, 42 were snowboarders, who are up to 50% more likely to be injured than skiers.
Over the last few decades, helmets have been developed to be as protective as possible. Helmets protect your head with a hard exterior and foam on the inside. The shell, usually plastic, protects your head and neck. When you hit the ground, the exterior of the hemet will skid to prevent a neck jostling. The foam on the inside of the helmet absorbs the impact of the fall (The Alaska Center for Resource Families). If the helmet fits you properly, the chances a head injury are decreased. A more expensive helmet does not always mean it is safer; a well fitting helmet is much more important (Alaska Center for Resource Families).
Around 600,000 people are injured every year as a result of skiing and snowboarding, and 20% of which are head injuries (US National Libraries of Medicine). Many teenagers are unaware of how dangerous these sports can be. Poor snow conditions, a malfunction of a lift, and other people being careless can cause detrimental injuries. Skiing injuries are roughly $22,000 between hospital bills and physical therapy, so high schoolers cannot afford to be careless on the mountain.
Teenagers have developing brains, and an injury to the brain can cause damage to the development.
“The ice and snow are like cement,” said Isabella Cybulski, a Woodland Ski Club member, “you don’t want your head to hit the ground unprotected.”
The prefrontal cortex, located in the front of the brain, “is concerned with tasks such as reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, planning, holding things in mind, switching between tasks, as well as social cognitive abilities” (Dana.org). Injuries to the prefrontal cortex, even if they are minor, can cause issues in these fields in the future. Jobs of the prefrontal cortex are crucial to success as an adult.
Perhaps non-helmer wearers believe that they won’t fall. Even Olympians, the most skilled athletes in the world, fall. Lindsey Vonn, having won four World Cup championships, fell and injured her knee at Copper Mountain in November. Skiers and snowboarders are at risk of injury, you can’t change that, but you can prepare so you are protected.
Next time you are going to hit the slopes, make sure your head does not.
Wear a helmet.
Abby Messina, Hawk Headlines