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New Initiative Targets Helmet Use on Wisconsin Ski Hills

PHOTO: A new initiative from American Family Children's Hospital is designed to educate parents and young skiers and snowboarders about the dangers of not wearing a helmet while enjoying the sport. Nationally there are 600,000 ski and snowboard injuries reported every year. (Photo credit: Jenniville Ski Resort)
PHOTO: A new initiative from American Family Children's Hospital is designed to educate parents and young skiers and snowboarders about the dangers of not wearing a helmet while enjoying the sport. Nationally there are 600,000 ski and snowboard injuries reported every year. (Photo credit: Jenniville Ski Resort)
January 29, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Six hundred-thousand ski and snowboard injuries are reported every year in the U.S., some in Wisconsin. Dr. Ankush Gosain, a pediatric surgeon with American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, says the number goes up every year. He treats a lot of young people who suffer life-threatening traumatic brain injuries that he says could have been avoided with one simple precaution.

"About 20 percent of those kids come in injured have a traumatic brain injury," says Gosain. "Many of these could be prevented with helmet usage."

Gosain is spearheading a new initiative to bring awareness to the problem of traumatic injury among young skiers and snowboarders who don't use helmets. American Family Children's Hospital has just begun working with Wisconsin's 14 ski hills and ski resorts to get the message across to young people and their parents. Gosain says awareness may do more good than a new law.

"The best approach in our opinion would be to educate families and get voluntary usage," he says. "You're going to get much more buy-in and much more uniform usage of helmets if people are really interested and invested in doing it themselves, rather than imposing a law."

Only one state, New Jersey, requires children to wear helmets for skiing and snowboarding.

According to Gosain, American Family Children's Hospital treats about 50 patients a year with life-threatening brain injuries after skiing or snowboarding mishaps and in each of the last three years, one patient has died from their injuries.

Gosain reports good cooperation with Wisconsin's ski hills and resorts and says the new helmet initiative fits well with the hospital's mission.

"Our role is as a level-one pediatric trauma center in the state - we're one of only two in the state," he says. "It's our responsibility to get this message out, and try and prevent injuries, rather than just caring for those injuries when they happen."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI