Winter Sports Safety

Girl in pink ski helmet

Slick, icy conditions make you move a lot faster—that’s one thing most winter sports have in common. Whether it is alpine skiing, sledding down a hill, playing a game of hockey or simply learning figure eights on the village pond, the potential for severe head injury increases when you have a collision with the ice; another person; parked or moving vehicles; or obstacles like trees and rocks.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend the use of protective helmets for any winter sport, but different helmets are appropriate for different sports.

The Injury Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock offers this helpful list of helmet do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you head up the mountain or glide out onto the ice, regardless of your age or ability:

  • Do wear a multi-sport helmet for ice skating, playing hockey or sledding. The helmet can be the same or similar to a biking or skateboarding helmet.
  • Don’t wear a multi-sport helmet for skiing and snowboarding.
  • Do wear a ASTM-certified (American Society for Testing Materials) helmet for skiing and snowboarding. Important qualities of ski helmets include:
    • greater thickness than a multi-sport helmet and better for absorbing collision impacts,
    • thickness that keeps your head warmer at higher altitudes and for longer periods of time,
    • design that allows for appropriate fit of ski goggles. Goggles protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and flying debris, are vented to prevent fogging up and can improve vision by reducing sun glare off the snow.
  • Do make sure your helmet fits securely, think “MVP”:
    • M is for no Motion. If your helmet secure, when you open your mouth wide and then close it, your helmet should move up and down.
    • V is for the “V” shape the straps make under your ears once fastened.
    • P is for correct position of the helmet. To make sure your helmet is not too far back or too far forward, the space between your eyebrows and the rim of the helmet should be one or two finger widths.
  • Don’t use a helmet that is beyond its expiration date. Most helmets have a printed expiration date and when that date is passed, it is recommended that you replace your helmet.