Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Security Helmets

I don't want to write too much about this because I think this is a time during which this family deserves privacy ... but I want to point out how good the human brain is at finding ways to create the myth of our own safety.

Actress Natasha Richardson is in critical condition due to a tragic ski accident on a beginner, bunny hill. Just one of those freak accidents, a terrible, terrible event, and unfortunately, something that happens in life every once in a while.

News reports coming out about this immediately pointed to the fact that she was skiing without a helmet.

I think writers included this fact so readers could feel a false sense of security. You read that and think, "Oh, but I would wear a helmet and therefore, this would never happen to me." But my goodness. I am far from an avid skier, but I do live in the Pacific Northwest where people ski a lot, and nobody skis with a helmet.

Reporters have just thrown in this made up, miscellaneous safety precaution that Ms. Richardson was supposedly ignoring in order to give readers a phony safety blanket.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...

My wife just purchased a helmet this year for the first time and felt a lot safer having it on. And she is a skiing maniac. I am glad she did, and it actually looks pretty cool on her. She did it because of our twins and wanting to set a good example for them and not by a hypocrite when they HAVE to wear helmets skiing.

Some research has shown that wearing a bicycle helmet may actually increase the rate of accidents with cars, while decreasing the severity of the accident. Kind of like the helmet brings a false sense of security to those around you (ie cars.)

Jessica Knapp said...

Yeah, I've been looking around on the Web, and it seems they require helmets in Europe. And I guess it's more common in the US than I had thought. (The NY Times is reporting 43% of all skiers and snowboarders wore helmets last season, up from just 25% in the 2002-2003 season.)
So, I stand corrected on that point.

I'm a HUGE proponent of wearing helmets while bicycling. I have a couple of friends who have head injuries from bike accidents in which they WERE wearing helmets. And I have chronic, daily headaches myself, so I'm always trying to explain to people that they don't want to do anything that would increase their chances of having head-pain issues.

So, I'm all for taking safety measures that actually make you safer and that make you feel safer. I guess I just didn't like the implication that the media was making that Ms. Richardson had done something wrong by not wearing a helmet, when lots of skiers don't wear them (although more do than I thought), and they are not required in this country.

I mean, we certainly could be safer because we wear a helmet. But we aren't any safer because Ms. Richardson didn't wear a helmet.

Gail Rae said...

One of my sisters, when we heard the news of Richardson's subsequent death, said that she had recently read up on skiing accidents, everything from permanent injuries to deaths, because her daughter went on a skiing vacation with her boyfriend in January and neither of them was an expert skier. Turns out, skiing accidents are frightfully common, as are the resulting injuries and deaths, despite safety equipment. Her recollection is that the most common cause of ski accidents is collision; with other skiers and environmental obstacles often obscured by weather conditions and/or snow pack.
I agree that the "false sense of security" issue deserves attention. In addition, I'm recalling the last famous fatal ski accident, Sony Bono's. I think he skied into a tree. I don't know if he was wearing a helmet, but, from what I heard, it wouldn't have helped him much if he was.
One way or another, even if we don't think we do, we all participate in activities that threaten our lives. That's just life. You live. You die. You hope you don't die before you want to and you hope you don't live through conditions that make you wish you were dead but, well, even my mother, at 91, with lung cancer, wasn't ready to die when she did, so, you know, that's life, I guess; or, excuse me, death...which is it, anyway...