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Head Injuries on the Rise in Skiers and Snowboarders

Researchers promote increased injury-prevention efforts including the wider use of helmets

FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are increasing among alpine skiers and snowboarders, especially in young males who perform daredevil stunts, researchers report in the December issue of Injury Prevention.

Alun Ackery, of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues reviewed 24 studies from 10 different countries that were published between January 1990 and December 2004.

The researchers found an increasing incidence of traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury associated with alpine skiing and snowboarding that coincided with the increasing popularity of acrobatic and high-speed skiing and snowboarding activities. They also found that head injuries are the most common cause of death among skiers and snowboarders, and that young male snowboarders have the highest risk of death from head injuries. They cite evidence showing that helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 22 percent to 60 percent.

"We strongly recommend the use of helmets by all skiing and snowboarding participants. We also recommend the promotion and enforcement of standards for ski and snowboarding helmets in countries in which these activities are common," the authors conclude. "Injuries in this population have long-term sequelae that are usually devastating. These injuries are often irreversible with long-term physical, emotional, and socioeconomic consequences. Prevention programs must target these populations because of these implications."

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