New Legislation coming for Ski Helmets
Over the last several months, the national office of National Ski Patrol has been following developments in helmet legislation in three states: California, New Jersey, and New York. In our June Final Sweep, we told you both AB 1652 and SB 880 had passed in their respective legislatures in California on June 1, and that legislation in New Jersey was close to passing.
This week, both pieces of legislation took steps toward becoming law. Assembly Bill 1652 and Senate Bill 880 were reconciled into a single piece of legislation and sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk for signature on August 24. SB 880 requires all children under the age of 18, including patrollers and resort employees, to wear a "properly fitted and fastened snow sport helmet while operating snow skis or a snowboard while participating in the sport of downhill skiing or snowboarding." A violation would result in a fine of $25 to the parent.
SB 880 also requires resorts to post signage giving "reasonable notice" of the law and "provide prominent written notice" of the law on trail maps and resort websites. AB 1652 adds reporting requirements concerning resort safety plans and monthly reports on any fatalities at the resort. The two bills are linked such that AB 1652 and SB 880 only become law if the other is enacted. If signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, the law will take effect on January 1, 2011.
In New Jersey, Senate Bill 130 passed the New Jersey state senate by a vote of 33-2. The bill would require anyone under 18, including patrollers and resort employees, to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding. Like the California bill, a fine of $25 will be imposed on parents if their child does not wear a helmet, with second offense fines increasing to up to $100. If signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, the legislation takes effect on the "first day of the seventh month after signed into law," meaning the earliest it would go into effect is April, so it likely will not affect the coming ski season in New Jersey.
Ski helmets - are they all that they are cracked up to be?
A new Norwegian study on the benefits of wearing a ski helmet has found that they are, without a doubt, beneficial. The study was done at 8 major Norewegian ski resorts durin gthe 2002 ski season. It surveyed 3,277 injured skiers and snowboarders, 578 of them with head inuries. Using a helmet was associated with a 60% reduction in risk for head injuries. As well, the risk for head injury was higher among snowboarders than for alpine skiers.
An earlier Canadian study of 19 ski areas in Quebec suggests that children wearing ski helmets may be at risk of neck injuries. Writing in the British Medical Journal, the study reports that helmets can exert a large bending or twisting force on the neck when a skier falls. This is of particular concern for children because their heads are larger than those of adults in relation to their bodies. The researchers base their findings on the injury reports of 1082 cases during the 2001-2002 ski season in Quebec.
The study was done by Brent Hagel and for four colleagues. Mr. Hagel is an assistant professor at the University of Alberta's Center for Injury Control and Research. " Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding may reduce the risk of head injury by 29% to 56%that is, for every 10 people who wear helmets, three to six may avoid head injuries." he says.
Mr, Hagel's report continues: " This may even be an underestimate if, as in cycling, the helmets were worn incorrectly or were in poor condition,10 or were not designed for skiing or snowboarding. The effect of helmet use on neck injuries is less clear. Although we found no statistically significant estimates for neck injury and no evidence of effect modification by age, our sensitivity analysis suggests an increased risk of neck injuries with helmet use."
During the 2004-2005 season icy ski conditions lead to a number of skiing deaths caused mostly by head injuries. The number of injuries occuring at Vermont mountains is kept confidential for obvious reasons, but a check with hospitals near ski areas indicates a high frequency of admissions with neck and head injuries during the ski season. Despite continuing cases of skier head injuries neither Vermont nor New Hampshire require skiers to wear helmets.
Snow riders (both skiers and snowboarders) are running out of excuses for not wearing a helmet whenever on the slopes. New helmet designs and technology have produced lightweight, comfortable helmets that are both warm and well ventilated. A wide variety of styles are available and as more and more pros utilize helmets they are becoming an accepted part of snowriding equipment. Best of all they may help to protect you or your child in an accident.
Tips for using and wearing helmets when skiing and snowboarding