Blog: Avalanche Trauma Mortality and Helmet Use

Drew Hardesty
Arming oneself with all the latest gadgets is no substitute for practicing safe travel skills, terrain selection, snowpack evaluation, and rescue protocols. Our pill popping culture believes in a quick fix for any ailment. We often choose gadgets over education and behavior modification, even when we know behavior changes provide the most benefit in the long run. Outfitting oneself with all the latest technology can bolster risk taking and confidence.
Good stuff, her...
Fri, 2/12/2016
"Helmets will protect against lacerations, contusions, probably minor fractures, and moderate speed (less than 15 mph) head injuries." Sounds like more than enough reason for me to wear a helmet while backcountry skiing (and skinning). Plus even if an avalanche has you moving at 60-80 mph, you might be slowing down to <15 mph by the time you hit a tree or rock. On a minor note, must be a typo here for either the year or percent: "Traumatic injury among avalanche victims has received increasing attention since 2009 when a Canadian study reported a surprising 25% of victims died of trauma. Previous studies suggested trauma as a cause of death occurred in less than half that number. " .... since even just a very quick review of books I have on pdf with publication dates of 2006, 2007, and 2008 all cite the same 25%.
Jonathan Shefftz
Sat, 2/13/2016
<p>There&#39;re obviously plenty of good reasons other than potential avalanche trauma to use&nbsp;a helmet in the backcountry. &nbsp;Use of avalanche safety gadgets like helmets, airbags, and beacons doesn&#39;t really mean that you choose go&nbsp;without more education, conservative terrain assessment, and/or behavior modification. &nbsp;On the contrary, those who use proper PPE&nbsp;and pay attention to backcountry safety protocols might&nbsp;be labeled by some as paranoid gadget-heads, but even through just thinking about our safety, we may be less likely to be caught and killed in avalanches. &nbsp; I find the helmet and safety sunglasses valuable in the backcountry mostly for protection&nbsp;from trees and branches while downhill bushwhacking or descending fast tree-lined egress trails. &nbsp;A helmet obviously could also add some protection&nbsp;from&nbsp;stupid falls (at slow speeds) or other inadvertent head whacks... &nbsp;And, helmet use indicates that we care about our own safety. &nbsp;Just like climbers and bike riders a few years ago, by using a helmet we can easily set&nbsp;a good example for our children and less experienced&nbsp;backcountry riders...</p>
Sat, 2/13/2016
25 years ago Jeff Lowe and I had a discussion about the safety programs i was creating for insurance companies I was creating for out door activities. I included helmets in climbing water craft horseback events and bicycling activities. Jeff clearly pointed out while helmets would "help " reduce some injuries one had to be smart enough not to stand under a rock fall just because they are wearing one. unfortunately the YIMs do not always realize that. [Young invincible men]. The helmet will save some injuries but certainly not all especially high speed ones. The programs had and still have few head injury claims.
carl weil
Sat, 2/13/2016
The helmets produced today for skiers will probably only mitigate minor to moderate injuries to the head and should still be encouraged although the data for severe head injury is mixed and more study is needed. Newer technology in helmets designed for backcountry use is sorely needed. Interestingly, if you look at the Boyd, Haegeli et al. study from Canada on a 21 year study of patterns of death: backcountry, sidecountry and mechanized skiers had about a 30% trauma death rate whereas with snowmobilers the trauma rate was only 9%. Could their helmets designed to sustain much higher impact be playing a role? Something to think about.
Martin I. Radwi...
Sun, 2/14/2016
Well well well..........i've said it before, i'll say it again..........:)
Roger Wharton
Sun, 2/14/2016
I have just come across the article in the AR. I can see nothing in this reasoning that would argue for not wearing a helmet. I am not impressed by any lack of evidence of their utility. I personally don't feel that safety equipment increases my level of risk taking. I have for many years been quite aware of my mortality. If, for what ever reason and in my time there have been such cases, I needed to expose myself to a potential avalanche situation, would I chose not to wear a helmet if one was available? The answer is simple.
Tom Kimbrough
Mon, 4/4/2016

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