As most parents are well aware, allowing children to participate in sports, particularly many winter sports, comes with a risk of head impacts, concussions, and other more severe types of traumatic brain injury. But many parents believe that so long as their children are outfitted with a helmet, they will be safe from these dangers.
As a new study shows, however, that helmets may not be doing as much as parents believe to protect children from winter-sports brain injuries.
Researchers published in the current issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics looked at the three helmet types most frequently used in winter sports: hockey helmets, alpine skiing helmets, and bicycle helmets. The researchers also looked at multiple injury causes, including slipping and falling (hitting the head on the ground in the process), collision with another athlete, falling off a moving sled (again hitting the head on the ground in the process), and striking a tree or pole while sliding, sledding, or skiing.
The authors were particularly concerned with concessions in winter sports due to recent research showing the extreme dangers of cumulative or successive concussions. While concussions are among the mildest of traumatic brain injuries, recent evidence has shown that as athletes suffer more of these seemingly small events, particularly if the subsequent injuries occur before a full recovery is made from the first, can lead to all manner of severe, even life-altering consequences, including depression, permanent cognitive difficulties, and debilitating disease.
When the authors tested the performance of the various helmet types, they found that ice hockey helmets performed best at low-speed crashes, while bicycle helmets performed best at the highest velocities tested (about 8 meters per second). Counter to what many people would believe, alpine ski helmets, however, offered very limited protection at both low and high speeds.
Frighteningly, the researchers found that at 6 meters per second and above, all three helmet types showed damage on impact, ranging from large cracks to the complete breakdown of the helmet’s protective lining.
As noted by the authors of the study, helmets simply do not eliminate head injuries – they can only offer limited protection to mitigate the impacts. It is up to parents to protect their children from traumatic brain injury by such simple expedients as choosing age-appropriate activities, teaching proper safety for those activities, and watching closely for signs of concussion – stopping all activity if any such signs are noted.
Parents much also ensure that coaches and other supervisors are aware of and abide by these same simple rules. Doing so, together with ensuring that children wear a helmet during all winter sports activities, can provide children with the best chance of avoiding the debilitating effects of successive concussions and traumatic brain injury.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago brain injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.