Helmet Head: Do helmets really help prevent injuries?

These days, helmets are an essential part of a skiing or riding kit. But despite the prevalence of helmets on the slopes, concerned moms still wonder: Does wearing a helmet increase the amount of risk that individuals undertake?

In the insurance world, adopting riskier, more aggressive behavior after acquiring a safety device is called “moral hazard.” That human behavior holds true across sports like football and hockey—put a helmet on, and the likelihood of tough play goes up.

Image courtesy MIPS.com.

Increase in assumed risk might be why multiple studies show that, despite more widespread helmet use, head injuries have not abated. Recent helmet technology, such as MIPS, which is designed to reduce the rotational impact of injuries, is tackling problems previously not considered by helmet manufacturers—evidence that there’s room for ingenuity even with the “brain bucket.”

Helmets, like airbags, serve an important purpose, but are by no means a cure-all. The bottom line, as suggested by researcher Dr. Jasper E. Shealy, who’s been studying snow safety for the past 40 years: ski and ride with a helmet on, but make decisions as if you’re going without one.

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  1. Bernard Pistilli says:

    I’m an 85 year old active male adult who still skis and races in NASTAR. I’ve experienced a total of 6 concussions dating back to my childhood. They seem to occur more frequently and more easily ie; with less traumatic impact. I wear a helmet but, while that prevents exterior damage to my skull, it does not diminish injury to my brain. Any suggestions?

    • Tyler Cohen says:

      The MIPS system, which is available now in several helmets from several manufacturers, is a low-friction layer within the helmet that’s designed to mimic the fluid that surrounds your brain and is intended to reduce the chance of a concussion during impact. I’ve yet to get a concussion while wearing it, but haven’t really tried either!

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