Snowboarding, Helmets, and Concussions

Snowboarding is an exhilarating winter sport that more and more young people are gravitating to each year. While exciting, however, it can also be a dangerous sport if necessary precautions are not taken. This is especially true for beginners who have not yet learned the basics of snowboarding.

The most common snowboarding injuries tend to be sprains – normally in the arms and wrists since beginners tend to break their falls with their hands. The most dangerous type of injury, however, by a huge margin is the risk of a concussion. Especially, among snowboarders who refuse to wear helmets.

A concussion is a traumatic injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head. In snowboarding, this can easily happen by a collision with a skier or another snowboarder, a fall to the ground, or an impact with a tree. Signs of a concussion include feeling dizzy or disoriented, having an urge to throw up, or experiencing blurred vision. If you have any of these symptoms after a collision, you should seek immediate medical help.

Without a helmet, the head and brain take the full impact of the blow which can be so intense that it leads to long-term or even permanent injury. A helmet acts to diffuse the impact by taking the brunt of the impact itself, so instead of the energy being concentrated on one spot, it spreads over a larger area. Even with a hard blow where the helmet will not be able to absorb the full impact itself, it will most likely absorb enough of it to prevent you from suffering brain damage.

But don’t just choose the first stylish helmet that you see. Try on several different styles before choosing one. Also, try different manufacturers. The helmets from one manufacturer may fit your head better than another one. Try the helmet on with all the headgear that you normally wear, including goggles. The helmet should fit snug – but not tight.

Also, look for a helmet that has the ASTM F2040 certification sticker. ASTM is a voluntary standards organization that sets standards for thousands of products and materials. The presence of a ASTM F2040 sticker certifies that the helmet meets the minimum performance specifications required to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries to the head while participating in extreme sports such as snowboarding and skiing.

ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world-a trusted source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services.

There is a flip side to wearing helmets, however. Snowboarders who wear helmets typically tend to go faster than those without helmets, no doubt thinking themselves safe from injury. But the increased speed means than if they do have a collision, they are hitting at a greater force which in many cases is more than enough to offset the effect of wearing a helmet in the first place.

Bottom line – A bad concussion can end your snowboarding fun forever. A helmet cannot guarantee that you won’t suffer a head injury, but it does reduce the odds significantly. Wearing a properly fitted helmet is a very small price to pay to increase the odds that you’ll continue to have fun on the slopes in years to come.