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Protecting Kids' Noggins on their Toboggans

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Protecting Kids' Noggins on their Toboggans

New research shows that wearing any kind of helmet is protective, but that the best helmet for tobogganing is an ice hockey helmet.

Kids love to go fast. They also love playing outdoors—especially when there’s winter fun to be had. How do we help them protect their most valuable asset—their noggins? New research published in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics tested three types of helmets for their safety ratings during winter sports.

The researchers looked at bicycle helmets, alpine ski helmets, and ice hockey helmets to determine their effectiveness at four different velocities (2, 4, 6, and 8 meters per second). Needless to say, the helmets weren’t on real kids—crash test dummy kids were used instead.

The researchers didn’t declare an outright winner because each type of helmet is designed for different types of impact. In fact the lead researcher, Michael Vassilyadi, MD, of Pediatric Neurosurgery Children’s Hospital in Ottawa, said, “The bottom line is that all helmets are protective, and young children should be wearing helmets during winter activities.”

But the researchers did find that ice hockey helmets provided better protection at lower-velocity impacts, while bicycle helmets were better guards during high-speed crashes.

Many parents would assume that a ski helmet would be best for their tiny tobogganers, but the researchers found that wearing an ice hockey helmet actually provided better protection.

Consider the possibility of injury: children younger than 10 were hospitalized most often for injuries related to skiing and snowboarding and tobogganing during 2010-2011, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. And according to Harry Zarins, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Canada, roughly 2,000 kids are injured each year while sledding.

We all know that getting helmets on kids’ noggins can be tricky, but here are a few tips on how to cajole them into treating their brains well:

  • Start them early—and establish the habit.
  • Wear a helmet yourself.
  • Tell them why they should wear a helmet (you love their brain!)
  • Reward them for wearing their helmets (stickers work great!)
  • Point out sports stars who wear helmets.

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