Volume 5, Issue 4 (April 2008)
Pediatric Head and Neck Injuries in Snow Sports: Evaluating the Influence of Helmets
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in 1999 that head injuries represent approximately 14 % of all skiing and snowboarding injuries. Cadman and Macnab showed that children were twice as likely as other age groups to sustain injuries to the head, face, and neck. While helmets have been shown to reduce the overall number of head injuries for the pediatric population, some members of the skiing and medical communities have indicated that pediatric helmets may increase the likelihood of neck injuries. We conducted a two-part experimental study to examine the potential effects of pediatric helmets during severe collisions. In the first part of the study, we measured the speeds of 154 children on beginner and intermediate ski slopes. Across all locations at a resort, the average speed of the children was 18.7 kph (11.6 mph). In the second part of the study, we used an instrumented Hybrid-III 10-year-old anthropomorphic test device (ATD) to determine the head accelerations, neck loads, and chest deflection associated with two impact conditions: (1) inertial neck loading created during torso impacts into a rigid barrier and, (2) direct head contact and neck loading during skier-to-pole and skier-to-skier impacts. For these tests, the ATD was accelerated to the average observed speed of pediatric skiers and snowboarders. The data show that the use of a helmet did not increase the likelihood of severe neck injury during the inertial neck loading condition. The results of the direct head contact tests showed that compressive loads on the neck were reduced with helmet use, but always exceeded injury thresholds with or without a helmet. As expected, helmet use did reduce substantially the likelihood of severe brain injury in the skier-to-pole (by 47 %) and skier-to-skier (by 69 %) impacts by decreasing the linear accelerations, angular accelerations, and head injury criterion.