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UW Health Initiative Targets Helmet Use In Skiing, Snowboarding

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UW Health Initiative Targets Helmet Use In Skiing, Snowboarding

Madison, Wisconsin - Skiing and snowboarding crashes and collisions are two of the causes of preventable traumatic brain injury among kids under 18 in Wisconsin. Yet, a UW Health pediatric trauma surgeon says helmet use is not widespread.

"Six-hundred thousand ski and snowboard injuries are reported every year in the U.S.," said Dr. Ankush Gosain. "Twenty percent of those have traumatic brain injuries with incidence higher in males, children and teenagers under 17. These might be prevented with increased use of helmets."

At American Family Children's Hospital alone, about a dozen patients are hospitalized each year with life-threatening traumatic brain injury related to skiing and snowboarding. The hospital reports that it treats about 50 patients a year with non-life-threatening injuries, such as mild traumatic brain injury, fractures and solid organ injuries. In each of the last three years, the children's hospital has treated a patient with fatal injuries from skiing or snowboarding.

Gosain is part of a multi-disciplinary group at UW Health studying ways to prevent traumatic brain injuries. The group has found that lack of helmet use at Wisconsin ski hills is a major factor. The UW Health Department of Surgery is leading the initiative.

Child skiing with helmet

"Our group will be collaborating with the state's 14 ski hills and resorts, ski clubs and teams and schools on helmet initiatives," said Gosain.

Helmet use for skiing and snowboarding is not mandatory in Wisconsin. New Jersey is the only state that requires children to wear helmets for skiing and snowboarding. "Some states have considered legislation to mandate helmet use. We would prefer to educate families and get voluntary usage," said Gosain.

American Family Children's Hospital is a Level One Pediatric Trauma Center which cares for the most-severely injured patients. As one of only two Level One Pediatric Trauma Centers in the state, the hospital receives patients from Wisconsin, northern Illinois, northern Iowa and western Minnesota. Gosain said that Level One Trauma Centers are expected to serve as a regional resource for best practices in the care of injured patients and that the project will include outreach and education programs for all trauma centers in Wisconsin.

Gosain said he hopes the initiative reduces the incidence of traumatic brain injury from winter sports in Wisconsin and that ski clubs, ski schools and ski hills adopt ski helmet use.

Date Published: 01/26/2015