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BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON -- Ski and safety advocates launched an initiative Tuesday to increase helmet use for skiers and snowboarders. The group says brain injuries on the slopes are an all too common occurrence.
Brighton Ski Resort and the Intermountain Medical Center have teamed up to promote the "Wear a Helmet, Save a Brain" campaign.
Wearing helmets reduces the risk of head injury among skiers and snowboarders by 35 percent. -Intermountain Medical Center
"We know that approximately 30 to 60 percent of traumatic brain injuries can be prevented by simply wearing a helmet while you're snowboarding," says Bill Golmeyer, with Intermountain Medical Center.
Yet, according to their statistics, only about 49 percent of Americans wear helmets while skiing and snowboarding.
When KSL was at the slopes Wednesday, we saw that percentage hold true. Brighton Resort and Intermountain Medical Center physicians think that number is too low.
Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and serious injury among skiers and snowboarders.
"We do believe they are very effective in reducing traumatic brain injuries. It's hard to pinpoint exact cases, because when the helmet works, you don't notice you have a concussion," says Brandon Dodge, who is a member of Brighton's ski patrol.
Brighton's goal is to educate its ski and snowboard community of the importance of protecting your brain by wearing a helmet. Resort officials say they have seen an increase in helmet use over the years, but that number needs to continue climbing -- the difference between wearing a helmet or not can save your life.
"It's extremely unusual for us to see somebody with a fatal or very severe brain injury who's wearing a helmet," says Dr. Tom White, trauma surgeon at Intermountain Medical Center.
49 percent of Americans wear a helmet when skiing or snowboarding. -Brighton Ski Resort
White says the argument for feeling liberated and free while on the slopes doesn't hold very strong when measured against the benefits of a helmet to protect your brain.
"We see helmet use as a very cheap insurance policy," White says. "For less than $100 you can basically, virtually protect your brain."
White says "friends don't let friends slide without a helmet," and that even mild brain injuries can have long-term effects or disability. When a skier or snowboarder hits their head on a tree, rock or hard snow, the damage is done on impact and there is little they can do to salvage the brain.