Get to know the dos and don’ts of winter helmet safety

Slick, icy conditions make you move a lot faster — something that most winter sports have in common. Whether it is alpine skiing, sledding down a hill, playing a game of hockey or learning how to do figure eights on a village pond, the potential for severe head injury increases when you hit 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 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 (CHaD) offers this helpful list of helmet dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you head up the mountain or glide 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 an 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.

— A thickness that keeps your head warmer at higher altitudes and for longer periods of time.

— A design that allows for appropriate fit of ski goggles. Goggles protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and flying debris; they are vented to prevent fogging up and improve vision by reducing sun glare off the snow.

• Do make sure your helmet fits securely — think “MVP”:

— M is for no Motion. You know your helmet is secure if you open your mouth wide and close it and your helmet moves 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. When that date has passed, it is recommended that you replace your helmet.    

Jim Esdon is the program coordinator for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) Injury Prevention Program. For additional information related to this topic, reach out to the Injury Prevention Center at CHaD via email at ipc@hitchcock.org.

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