Something to Think About: Crash, Helmets and Change

“ I haven’t skied in years. I used to go to Aspen, Vail, Cooper, Steamboat,” I said wistfully. “I skied before people wore helmets.” Sensing confusion and disbelief, I went on to add, “Yes, there was a time when people didn’t wear helmets to ski.” My friend, still not sure just kind of mumbled, “no helmets…. but…” People who have grown up with a norm, a habit, customs, rules, can’t conceive of anything else. Data shows that helmets have not reduced skiing brain injuries or deaths. The American Medical Association did not find enough evidence to enforce mandatory use of helmets in 1997. But, this is not a debate of to helmet or not to helmet for adults.

Consider the impact perceived solutions accepted as a norm that has not proved to be particularly effective. There is an entire industry devoted to ski helmet production, in addition to ski rentals, there are helmet rentals, there are endorsements and peep pressure. The use of helmets is increasing. Helmets are now entrenched in ski culture; the use of helmets feels like “common sense” regardless of the data.

Most ski resorts do not require helmet to be worn for recreational skiing because the helmet does not “completely” prevent a head injury. It’s possible to still be injured during a ski crash, even while wearing a helmet. … When viewed in that light, though, there are not enough reasons for people to not wear a helmet.

This week, consider, once something is implemented and normalized; do we go back and reevaluate? Do we dismiss changing a norm because it’s too much trouble, it’s not worth it, or it’s not really hurting anything?

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