Intended for healthcare professionals


The protective effects of helmets in skiers and snowboarders

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 10 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d857
  1. Gerhard Ruedl, postdoctoral researcher,
  2. Martin Kopp, professor,
  3. Martin Burtscher, professor
  1. 1Department of Sport Science, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  1. gerhard.ruedl{at}

Are clear, but better education and public awareness are needed

In the winter of 2008-9, public awareness of the benefits of wearing ski helmets heightened after two celebrities were involved in fatal skiing injuries in Europe and North America.1 2 3 In Austria, a German politician and a mother of four children collided on a ski slope on New Year’s Day 2009. The politician, who was wearing a ski helmet, survived with a traumatic brain injury, whereas the woman, who was not wearing a helmet, died. In Canada, actress Natasha Richardson died after a traumatic head injury sustained while skiing without a helmet on a beginner slope in Quebec in March 2009.

Mark Clarke/SPL

During the weeks after the death of Natasha Richardson, visits to the emergency room at the Montreal Children’s Hospital increased by 60%.1 It was concluded that the media coverage had caused anxiety among parents, prompting those who might not otherwise have sought medical care to bring their children to the emergency room.1In addition, 15% of neurosurgeons in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria bought a helmet after the fatal collision of the German politician, possibly as a result of the increased media coverage.2 The use of …

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