Slightly OT: Boris rails against ski helmets

Discussion in 'Technical Chat' started by Tony Raven, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. Tony Raven

    Tony Raven Guest

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  2. Tony Raven

    mrc7--urcm Guest

    In message <>
    Last time I looked into the skiing safety issue it did look to be more
    dangerous than cycling. About one serious accident requiring medical
    evacuation/attention per 300 skier days. The risks weren't evenly spread
    though, with beginners in their first few weeks of skiing showing the
    highest risks, and intermediates showing the lowest risks. The risks
    start to rise again as intermediates progress to advanced skiing (most
    likely because they start to tackle more difficult off-piste runs).

    The statistics suggest that skiing is much riskier than cycling yet many
    who ski seem unprepared to cycle.

    mrc7--urcm, Feb 21, 2011
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  3. Tony Raven

    Ian Jackson Guest

    Skiing is something you do a leisure activity (ie, an end in itself,
    including the thrill), intensively for maybe a week a year. Utility
    cycling is something you do to get places, is as a means to an end and
    hopefully without intending to get an adrenaline buzz (from near
    misses at least!), and something you do for a couple of hours a week
    all year round. So I'm not really sure what a sensible basis for
    comparing risks would be.

    The real question wrt skiing helmets seems to me to be whether they're
    actually any use. We know from population data that bike helmets
    probably aren't, other than perhaps to avoid minor scrapes and bumps.

    Last time I tried to find some research on skiing helmets I found a
    bunch of stuff from medics which seemed about as well-informed as the
    typical response from an unenlightened medic about bike helmets, and
    very little actual research.

    I do ski occasionally; I don't wear a helmet for cycling or for
    skiing; I have hit my head in both activities. Most recently on the
    bike a 20mph front wheel lockup resulting in my head getting a
    glancing scrape which produced cuts and bruises but no concussion.
    While skiing I did many years ago manage to need stitches in my head
    after I cut it on one of my skis in a particularly bad (and foolish)
    wipeout, but again no concussion.

    Even if a helmets would have saved me completely from the injuries in
    both events and didn't cause any others (eg, the bike crash could well
    have resulted in a nasty rotational concussion or yank to the neck, if
    my head had been an inch or two larger - this is my "not wearing a
    helmet saved my life (tm)" story) it wouldn't have been worth wearing
    one all the time for just that benefit.
    Ian Jackson, Feb 21, 2011
  4. Tony Raven

    Ace Guest

    Indeed, it's still a very grey area. Most ski schools now require that
    their instructors always wear helmets, as an example to the kids, and
    in some places they will insist that children they're teaching do too.

    The Ski Club of Great Britain has looked into what data is available,
    and failed to reach a firm conclusion for or against, with the
    following statement of policy:

    "At the Ski Club we will continue to monitor the helmet debate very
    closely, but at present with no clear research results, we do not feel
    it is appropriate to issue a statement recommending that all skiers
    and snowboarders of all ages wear a helmet. We know that more and more
    people are wearing helmets. Indeed many Ski Club staff and reps wear
    helmets but we still believe that is up to the individual whether a
    ski helmet is worn or not. We do however recommend that all children
    under 14yrs wear a helmet when skiing or snowboarding. "

    More about their fitting and selection here (possibly members only)
    Ace, Feb 21, 2011
  5. Tony Raven

    Tony Raven Guest

    The research I've seen showed no decrease in head injury rates despite
    increased helmet usage and if anything an increase in head injury rates
    and evidence, particularly at the experience skier end of the spectrum,
    of greater risk taking. Much like bike helmets in fact.

    Have a look at

    Some interesting comparative stats also between skiing, swimming and
    cycling at

    Tony Raven, Feb 21, 2011
  6. Tony Raven

    Ian Jackson Guest

    Ian Jackson, Feb 21, 2011
  7. Tony Raven

    David Guest

    There are also more and more youngsters taking to the slopes and not having
    lessons, especially with snowboarders. This was unheard of not so long ago
    and I still put my kids in lessons even though they are perfectly competent
    I would have said that you are much more likely to injure yourself skiing or
    snowboarding than cycling. Busy pistes can be total chaos at times.
    Having said that neither I nor my kids wear helmets doing either activity
    and personally I'd prefer them to be out there without a helmet than not out
    there at all.

    David, Feb 21, 2011
  8. Tony Raven

    thirty-six Guest

    How about broken legs?
    thirty-six, Feb 21, 2011
  9. Tony Raven

    mrc7--urcm Guest

    In message <INF*>
    I take your point Ian but the difference is not as clear cut as you
    paint it. Much of the data on the risks of cycling do not differentiate
    as to the purposes of using the bicycle at the time of any recorded
    injury, and this would need to be recorded against the total amount of
    cycling for each particular purpose. So there are individuals who mainly
    cycle as a leisure activity and others who choose cycling as a sporting
    activity and thus spend many hours training. We can't easily break down
    the dft data on cycle related road traffic accidents according to
    whether the cyclists were utility cycling, leisure cycling, or training
    for competitive cycling at the time of the accident.

    Equally amongst skiing accidents you also have those who live locally to
    skiing areas and those who may work in skiing areas. So you have in
    those areas people who use skiing as a means of transport or who are
    skiing for professional reasons (instructors, guides, lift workers, ski
    patrols). In Nordic countries skiing developed as a means to get about
    in the winter season, so kids would ski to school in winter rather than
    walk or cycle at other times of the year.

    For the past 10 years I have managed to ski about 22 days a year which
    is made up of about 8 days of resort skiing (on and off piste) and
    another 14 days of ski-touring/mountaineering. That would be equivalent
    to somebody recreational cycling one day a fortnight for example, which
    probably represents a reasonable proportion of the UK cycling
    I think the problem that is difficult to work out is whether risk
    compensation comes into play. Modern equipment (especially snowboards
    and fatter skis) makes it easier for people to venture off-piste at a
    more inexperienced level. If people also regard things such as helmets
    and avalanche equipment as giving them more safety, then the whole
    question of risk compensation comes into play once more.

    Indeed if you look at deaths off-piste, particularly avalanche deaths,
    then it has been noted that guided parties, and in particular guides and
    ski-instructors are over represented in the statistics. That looks like
    a possible risk compensation effect.
    In contrast I am still in the habit of wearing my helmet for cycling,
    but I've never worn a helmet for skiing, even though an analysis of my
    GPS tracks has shown me that I reach speeds of up to 80kph which is
    much faster than I tend to cycle!
    I've had more falls and near death experiences skiing than cycling but
    no major injuries in either activity so far.
    But it would be nice to have proper data to evaluate for defined

    mrc7--urcm, Feb 21, 2011
  10. Tony Raven

    Tony Raven Guest

    I don't think anyone gives much credence to the cycle helmet research
    that showed helmets reduced leg injuries by 75% (except for those
    wishing to foist helmets on us all and for them its a holy text)

    Tony Raven, Feb 21, 2011
  11. Tony Raven

    Ian Jackson Guest

    Yes, I take your points.
    I won't be holding my breath ...
    Ian Jackson, Feb 21, 2011
  12. Tony Raven

    Tony Raven Guest

    Sure those two 80kph spikes weren't on the chair lift ;-)

    Tony Raven, Feb 21, 2011
  13. Tony Raven

    Ralph Barone Guest

    So that explains why the swimming portion of the triathlon is so much
    shorter than the biking portion. They just want you to have equal risk
    of dying in all three phases :)
    Ralph Barone, Feb 22, 2011
  14. Tony Raven

    Ace Guest

    Skiing 'professionals' will represent perhaps 1-2% of the total
    numbers in a ski resort, and many (e.g. lift operators) will be doing
    very little actual skiing, and often will be doing it at times when
    the pistes are empty of tourists.
    Sure, but again this is a very small proporion, and is a completely
    different form of skiing, really havnig no relevance to the helmet
    That's actually a lot lower than many people reach. I clocked at 70kph
    in a oittle speed-trap area last weekend, which is deliberately short
    to limit speed. I'd estimate that I regularly get up to ~100kph or
    more. And then there are the racers, of course, who even when off of
    their course will continue to ski at breakneck pace on the pistes.
    I had a nasty fall before Christmas, when the toe-piece of my binding
    decided to make a bid for freedom (bloody Fritschis). I was skiing
    fast in pwder at the time, and had just hit a ridge of hard stuff,
    which ordinarily _might_ have thrown me around a bit, possibly causing
    a sideways fall. In this case, sudden loss of ski resulted in a
    classic face-plant, causing injury to both shuulders and a cut on my
    nose from my goggles. The right shoulder is still very painful,
    although got a lot better when I started physiotherapy a few weeks

    Other than that, any injuries I've incurred while skiing have been a
    result of over-stressing knees, often with no actual fall involved,
    more commonly with a small fall involving no other people and with no
    sudden impact to the upper body. This is probably quite typical, and I
    conclude that head impact is liekly in a much smaler proportion of
    accidents than it would be for cycling. This based on my observations
    and experiences, skiing 50+ days a year, and those of friends and
    colleagues, some of whom are professionals (lke my wife, a ski
    "Nice", perhaps, but it's unlikely that meaningful data would ever be
    Ace, Feb 22, 2011
  15. Tony Raven

    mrc7--urcm Guest

    In message <>
    But here again I would point out that those who cycle professionally
    make up small numbers but are often publicised in the cycle helmet
    Again I would simply point out that the similar arguments apply to
    cycling and the cycle helmet debate. Not all forms of cycling carry the
    same risk.

    mrc7--urcm, Feb 22, 2011
  16. Tony Raven

    Ace Guest

    You seem to be under the impression that somehow I'm arguing with you
    - not so. All I'm doing is sharing my experiences and pointing out
    areas in which skiing safety stats would not, even if they existed, be
    a fair comparison with cycling - the types of accident, usage rates,
    etc. etc. are very different, so I think that any comparison is

    Quite so.
    Ace, Feb 22, 2011
  17. Tony Raven

    Tony Raven Guest

    I personally see a lot of similarities between the two and for both the
    stats we have are averaged over all activities. So for example we have
    the folks that like to push themselves who will generally be off-piste
    or extreme skiers or mountain bikers. For them they expect to come a
    cropper regularly and if they don't have the view they're not trying
    hard enough. At the other end you get the cyclists cruising on sit up
    bikes and the skiers who cruise down the piste-ed and flattering slopes.

    In between you have other similar groupings but more around the type of
    person and character than the sport. About the only group we don't have
    is an equivalent to the cycle commuter who puts in lots of miles regularly.

    Tony Raven, Feb 22, 2011
  18. Tony Raven

    mrc7--urcm Guest

    In message <>
    Agreed and also the comparison has a similar validity to the Prof David
    Nutt type of comparison when he compared taking Ecstasy with
    Horseriding. They are both activities which have a risk of death when
    compared at a population level.

    So at the very least it is possible to compare at a population level,
    micromorts for skiing activities against micromorts for cycling

    Also at a population level you can ask the question of whether the
    increased use of helmets has correlated with a reduction in deaths that
    might not easily be explained by other confounding factors.
    not demonstrated major benefits in either activity.

    mrc7--urcm, Feb 22, 2011
  19. Tony Raven

    colin-reed Guest

    The broken legs that I've seen showed neither an increase nor a
    decrease in head injury rates.

    colin-reed, Feb 23, 2011
  20. Tony Raven

    Steve Walker Guest

    Steve Walker, Feb 26, 2011
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