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23-01-2012 | Sports medicine | Article

Ice hockey, bike helmets provide best winter sport protection for young children

Abstract

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MedWire News: Results from a comparative study of three helmet types commonly worn by young children during winter sports or activities suggest that ice hockey helmets offer the best slow-impact protection, and bicycle helmets the best fast-impact protection.

Contrary to expectations, the alpine ski helmet generally performed less well than the other two helmet types despite it being designed for winter sports.

"In activities such as tobogganing or skiing, children are able to attain very high velocities," commented study author Michael Vassilyadi (Paediatric Neurosurgery Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Canada) in a press statement. This can be a problem in countries with cold winters such as Canada where the beginning of winter tends to correspond to a significant increase in the number of young children (below 7 years of age) admitted to emergency departments with head injuries.

The speed that can be attained during these activities creates a "disproportionate amount of risk considering their underdeveloped skills necessary to protect themselves during unexpected events, such as falling or running into objects or other people," explained Vassilyadi.

To try and prevent such injuries, parents often provide their children with the most readily available form of head protection. As the most commonly used helmets for this purpose are currently bicycle, ice hockey, and alpine ski helmets, study co-author Blaine Hoshizaki (University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) and colleagues decided to test the protective abilities of these helmets in simulated impacts similar to those that may occur during winter sports or activities.

The team used a monorail drop rig to test the three helmets at impact speeds of 2, 4, 6, and 8 m/second at the front and side of each helmet.

As reported in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, the team found that the ice hockey helmet protected best against slower (2-4 m/second) frontal impacts, whereas the bicycle helmet offered the best protection against faster (8 m/second) frontal impacts. At 6 m/second, the bicycle and ice hockey helmets offered similar levels of protection, but both were significantly better than the alpine ski helmet.

In terms of side impacts, the ice hockey helmet again performed better than the other two helmets at slower (2-4 m/second) collision speeds. At 6 m/second, there was no significant difference between the three helmets and the alpine ski helmet performed best out of the three at 8 m/second.

"This research study does not take a stand about the 'best' helmet," concluded Vassilyadi in the same statement.

"A hockey helmet is likely the best for younger children when tobogganing as presented in this study. I think this is a great outcome because hockey helmets offer multi-impact protection by design; they can be worn with a toque; and a facial shield or cage can be easily added. The bottom line is that all helmets are protective - and young children should be wearing helmets during winter activities."

MedWire (http://www.medwire-news.md/) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert

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