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Richardson Death - Blunt Impact To The Head

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, March 19, 2009 4:48 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Vacation Safety, Head Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, Skiing, Recreational Sports

ER docs in Quebec had called on a mandatory helmet law 3 weeks before Richardson death. 

Quebec ER Docs Called For Helmet Law Three Weeks Ago



IMAGE SOURCE: Skiier with helmet/ Wikimedia commons/ author: Florian Lindner


Following the shocking and quick death of British actress Natasha Richardson, Quebec is considering  making helmets mandatory on the ski slopes. 

She died two days after her fall Monday of "blunt impact" to the head which caused an epidural hematoma, the New York medical examiner has ruled. 

Three weeks ago, emergency room doctors, in a meeting with the sports minister, Michelle Courchesne, called on mandatory helmet use on the slopes.

Richardson’s death has added an impetus to the plans.

The Association of Quebec Emergency Room Doctors claims 60 percent of head traumas could be avoided with the use of helmets. 

The sports minister has also met with ski run operators who say they don’t want to have to police their guests, and are often the most opposed to a mandatory law.

"The minister wants to see what kind of regulation can be made by the government to make the wearing of the helmet an obligation," Jean-Pascal Bernier, a spokesman for the sports minister told The Associated Press.

Richardson, 45, was taking a ski lesson on a Quebec beginners ski course. Last month in Ontario, a 13-year-old South Korean exchange student hit a tree and died. The student was not wearing a helmet.

AP reports that at least 39 died on Quebec’s ski slopes between 1990 and 2008. 

Among the 26 deaths between 1990 and 2004, 14 were head injuries. Helmets were worn by just two skiers. 

Ski Helmets

Helmets were once rarely seen on the slopes, now, depending on the source, they are becoming increasingly popular.  

The National Ski Areas Association reports that 43 percent wore helmets last ski season compared to 25 percent five years ago.

In Germany, Reuters reports that sales of helmets doubled when an accident in January at an Austrian resort left one woman dead and a politician seriously injured. He wore a helmet.

Austria is introducing a law requiring children under 14 to wear helmets.  The country had about 30 deaths on the slopes this season.

In Aspen, children under 12 at the ski schools have to wear helmets. It is not required for adults.

Researcher Jason Shealy, who studies skiing accidents, told Reuters that helmets reduce head injuries by 30 to 50 percent, but did nothing to impact fatalities. 

He notes “More than half of the people involved in fatal accident last season were wearing helmets.” 

Surviving the Slopes

The Brain Industry Research Foundation, a resource for those survivors of brain injury, reports that skiers and snowboarders have a less than one-in-a-million chance of being seriously injured or dying on the slopes. 

Most injuries are not life-threatening, but the five to 10 percent of injuries to the head can be lethal.  Brain injuries are more likely to result in death or permanent disability than other accidents.

Most head injuries come from colliding with trees, lift poles, or another skier.   For an adult, the injury can result in seizure disorder.

About 300,000 incur head injuries during a sporting event in the U.S. annually, but many injuries go unreported and therefore undiagnosed.  Winter sports contribute about 20,000 of those injuries. 

Head injuries like concussions are cumulative, meaning another injury in the same spot, even minor, can have the same impact as a large injury.

The ages of five to 14 are the prime ages for snow related injuries, with skiing and snowboarding leading the way.

BIRF reports that a helmet provides little protection from an injury delivered with direct force and above 12 miles per hour (MPH) such a collision with a tree. 

But most head injuries are glancing or indirect blows. With a helmet, a direct blow can turn into glancing blow, therefore increasing survival.  By reducing force to the skull and brain, they reduce the potential for traumatic brain injury (TBI), says BIRF.  #

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