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Effectiveness of helmets in skiers and snowboarders: case-control and case crossover study

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 03 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:281
  1. Brent E Hagel (brent.hagel{at}, assistant professor1,
  2. I Barry Pless, professor2,
  3. Claude Goulet, director of research3,
  4. Robert W Platt, associate professor2,
  5. Yvonne Robitaille, epidemiologist4
  1. 1 Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, 4075 RTF, 8308-114 Street, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E1,
  2. 2 Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, 1020 Pine Avenue West, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1A2,
  3. 3 Direction de la promotion de la sécurité, Ministère des Affaires municipales, du Sport et du Loisir, 100 rue Laviolette, suite 306, Québec Gouvernement, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada G9A 5S9,
  4. 4 Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 4835, Christophe-Colomb, Montreal, QC, Canada H2J 3G8
  1. Correspondence to: B E Hagel
  • Accepted 3 November 2004


Objective To determine the effect of helmets on the risk of head and neck injuries in skiers and snowboarders.

Design Matched case-control and case crossover study.

Setting 19 ski areas in Quebec, Canada, November 2001 to April 2002.

Participants 1082 skiers and snowboarders (cases) with head and neck injuries reported by the ski patrol and 3295 skiers and snowboarders (controls) with non-head or non-neck injuries matched to cases at each hill.

Main outcome measures Estimates of matched odds ratios for the effect of helmet use on the risk of any head or neck injury and for people requiring evacuation by ambulance.

Results The adjusted odds ratio for helmet use in participants with any head injury was 0.71 (95% confidence interval 0.55 to 0.92), indicating a 29% reduction in the risk of head injury. For participants who required evacuation by ambulance for head injuries, the adjusted odds ratio for helmet use was 0.44 (0.24 to 0.81). Similar results occurred with the case crossover design (odds ratio 0.43, 0.09 to 1.83). The adjusted odds ratio for helmet use for participants with any neck injury was 0.62 (0.33 to 1.19) and for participants who required evacuation by ambulance for neck injuries it was 1.29 (0.41 to 4.04).

Conclusions Helmets protect skiers and snowboarders against head injuries. We cannot rule out the possibility of an increased risk of neck injury with helmet use, but the estimates on which this assumption is based are imprecise.


    • Accepted 3 November 2004
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