A group of French doctors working within mountain clinics conducted a two-year study of the effectiveness of ski helmets in preventing head injuries. Data was gathered from thirty French ski resorts from 2012 to 2014. The doctors looked at traumatic brain injuries (TBI), other types of head injuries (OTHI) and two control groups, one with skiers with no injuries and the other with skiers suffering an injury other than a brain injury.
Not surprisingly, the study found that overall helmet wearers were less likely to sustain any head injury. And when all injured participants were considered, the risk of OTHI was statistically lower for those that wore helmets. Skiers who experienced a fall were less likely to injure their head compared with those involved in a collision.
But for the skiers who suffered a TBI, helmets were not shown to be significantly effective in preventing the injury. Concussions are a common result of TBI, and current technology in most helmets does not protect against a traumatic injury. Designers are beginning to introduce multi-directional impact protection systems (MIPS) in consumer ski helmets. Manufacturers including Scott, Bollé and Smith are now offering helmets with MIPS.
Skiers were more likely to sustain head injuries if they were snowboarders, under 26 years old or above 50 years and those with low skiing skill levels. And those skiing in terrain parks were more likely to suffer head injuries.
The full study, Effect of Helmet Use on Traumatic Brain Injuries and Other Head Injuries in Alpine Sport, was published in the Wilderness & Environmental Medicine Journal for June, 2018.