Actress Natasha Richardson's death this week in a skiing accident has created a serious dialog about the sport's safety and head injuries in general.
Whenever there is a death on a ski slope, it is a tragedy no matter who it is. But when a celebrity like a Sonny Bono or George Kennedy die in an unnecessary manner, it makes us think and talk alot about how dangerous the sport is. In fact, there are very few injuries per hundreds or thousands of ski trip down each slope. It is only the spectacular or unusual deaths that receive inordinate attention. Ski promoters take pains to point out how important it is to ski within your ability, and to wear appropriate gear and clothing. Whether you are a beginning skier who doesn't own their own complete set of gear, or an experience professional, you still need to keep your whits about you and ski under control. And accidents do happen... in every field. However, your choices and actions can reduce the risk tremendously. We hold safe driver classes. And, in the same vein, there are ski lessons that are held as well. You owe it to yourself to take a few lessons before getting on the slopes, if only so that you can keep yourself under control and safe. You wouldn't jump into a car and floor it the first time that you drive. But you'd start slowly in a new car until you have the feel of how it responds. In the same manner, you should ski gently and easily the first few runs each visit until you feel comfortable. After all, you want to be safe and come back in one piece... like most of us do, week after week.
Media reports indicate that she had taken a fall at a Canadian ski resort, but did not appear to be seriously injured, despite striking her head.
EMTs and first responders were waived off without making an examination.
Later that evening, Richardson complained of not feeling well and eventually blacked out.
Doctors described the cause of death as a subdural hematoma, that could have been prevented by use of a safety helmet, now very common among skiers.
A recent federal recommendation that skiers and snowboarders wear helmets on the slopes has made ski resorts nervous in that the endorsement may be one step closer to helmet laws. In November, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued the results of a snow sports study it conducted on head injuries last season, with the recommendation that skiers and snowboarders wear helmets.
The study concluded helmets could prevent or reduce the severity of 44 percent of the head injuries to adults and 53 percent of head injuries to children younger than 15 years of age. Additionally, the CPSC study indicated that helmets might prevent up to eleven deaths each year. The CPSC’s recommendation prompted a swift, written response from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) which emphasized responsible skiing and boarding as the first line of defense in avoiding injury. "NSAA urges all skiers and boarders to consider wearing a helmet as one of many safety considerations -- the first of which should be always skiing and boarding in a controlled and responsible manner."