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Push for safety on slopes sees continued success

Increased helmet use credited for fewer ER visits.

Depending on the run, the average recreational skier swooshes along at an average of 15 to 20 mph. And when you factor in the risk of falling or running into something, it’s no wonder that preventing head injuries is top of mind.

“Anyone traveling at a speed faster than you can run should be wearing a helmet,” said Shonette Doggett, Regions Hospital Injury Prevention Coordinator. “On a ski hill, that’s everyone.”

The good news is that most skiers and snowboarders are getting the message. The National Ski Areas Association began studying the issue of helmet use on ski hills in 2002. Since then, helmet use among minors has jumped dramatically, from 32 percent to 89 percent this past season. Overall, 80 percent of skiers and snowboarders wear a helmet, according to the study. That’s up from 25 percent in 2002.

“Ski and snowboard helmets are extremely effective at preventing head injuries and skull fractures,” Shonette said. “As helmet use continues to go up, we’re seeing fewer of these types of injuries in our ER.”

Success isn’t stopping the push for safety on the slopes. In January, Regions Hospital and Afton Alps teamed up to promote helmet use. Skiers and snowboarders who were not wearing a helmet were offered one to try out. They were professionally fitted and then they were off. If they committed to using it, it was theirs for free.

In addition, Afton Alps offered free helmet rental for the day and continues to offer coupons throughout the season for free rentals and purchase discounts.

“At Afton Alps, we are proud of our commitment to safety,” said Pam Hoye, Marketing and Public Relations Manager. “We encourage skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities to wear helmets and to ski and ride responsibly.”

This event supports another campaign led by the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center at Regions and Gillette called No Helmet, No Ride. The program was originally designed to encourage students to wear a helmet when they bike, blade or board. Now, the push for helmet use has expanded to winter sports.

“Many people are well versed on the need for helmets regarding summer activities, but they often don't consider the risks involved with winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding and sledding,” said Mary Barsness, who started this program after her son was injured in 2014.

For more information on how you can donate to No Helmet No Ride, contact the Regions Hospital Foundation Office at 651-254-2376 or email rhf@healthpartners.com. You can also fill out the online donation form and select No Helmet No Ride under “designation.”

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