Ortiz Pushes for Mandating the Use of Helmets for Skiers

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz holds a press conference addressing the issue of mandating skiers to wear protective helmets
March 25, 2010
Albany – Earlier today, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz held a press conference pushing for his legislation, (A.4286), which requires skiers to wear protective helmets and requires all ski area operators to make such helmets available to the general public. The legislation also calls for penalties for violations by ski area operators. Wearing protective helmets proves to reduce the frequency and severity of head injury if accident occurs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. Of that estimate U.S. emergency departments treat approximately 135,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children ages 5 to 18. Downhill skiing without a protective helmet is one contributing factor among these accidents. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), on the average during the past 10 years, 39.8 people per year died as a result of skiing or snowboarding. Further, the most serious ski injuries are caused by collisions involving the head. Because of the dangers involved in this high-speed activity, it is vital that skiers of all ages and skill levels be made aware of the risks involved and be equipped with the proper safety equipment. The objective of this legislation is to promote safety and protect lives.

In recent years, skiers and snowboarders have increasingly recognized the importance of wearing helmets. According to the 2008-2009 NSAA National Demographic Study, 48 percent of U.S. skiers and boarders wear helmets. Most of professional skiers or snowboarders wear helmets to protect themselves. Toby Dawson, a two-time 2003 World Championship Skier medalist testified: “Make wearing a helmet a habit. My helmet is on the top of my checklist when I am getting packed up for a World Cup event. Accomplished skiers still catch an edge and fall sometimes. On the slopes you can't always count on the person beside or behind you being in control."

Upon learning that 39 fatalities and 44 other serious injuries occurred in the 2008-2009 season as a result of skiing or snowboarding from the NSAA, Assemblyman Ortiz was very concerned about the safety issue relating to this type of sport. “There are millions of skiers and snowboarders every year. Even though it is common sense to wear protective helmets while involved in any high-speed activities, some people just ignore or disregard this fact. This results in devastating consequences like death or brain damage. This legislation, mandating protective helmets in ski areas, will help reduce the risk of brain damage. Helmets help reduce the seriousness of the accidents, we all know it. It is vital that skiers of all ages and skill levels be made aware of the risks involved and be equipped with the proper gear,” said Ortiz.