Whether you’re looking to face your fears, get fit, meet new people or just have fun, rock climbing This month, German F1 legend Michael Schumacher, who is no longer in a coma, returned home from hospital to a specially adapted rehab room where he will spend the foreseeable future. He is making “progress” since his tragic ski accident which put him in a coma back in December 2013, but it is a long and difficult road ahead. Some have used his accident as an ignorant example of the futility of helmets since Schumacher, an experienced skier, was wearing one which cracked upon impact with a rock.
However, surely his case highlights the very reason why wearing a helmet should no longer be a question and rather an instinct. Indeed he suffered deeply-embedded blood clots and was placed in a drug-induced coma to stabilise his condition but, crucially, he is alive. Had Schumacher not been wearing a helmet, it certain that his condition would have been considerably more severe and he could have very plausibly been killed upon colliding with the rock…so WHY do we still question the value of helmets?
Certainly the only slither of silver lining that can be drawn from Schumacher’s story was the spiked interest in helmets on the slopes as people headed to Alpine resorts or further in the months following his accident. While helmets are often compulsory for children in Europe, certainly in Austria and Italy, and mandatory in some areas of Canada and the US, we would like them to become a legal requirement across the board.
And they’re no longer uncool! Quite the opposite in fact, since you will stand out from the hoard of sensible helmet-wearers if you choose to not wear one. A recent study in Austria showed that more experts wear helmets than beginners…a statement which surely speaks for itself. While it’s great that the majority now choose to wear a helmet on the slopes, we need to target those who still do not by propagating the valuable role of helmets in mitigating injury. However, wearing a helmet is by no means a life guarantee.
The situation is the same on the roads. Currently in the UK, there is no law to compel cyclists of any age to wear helmets when cycling, though the Highway Code suggests they should. Like skiing, data shows that the risk of serious injury when cycling is too small to make helmets mandatory. Thus, despite the unequivocal proof that wearing a helmet is the single most effective way of reducing head injuries and fatalities, thousands of people take to the roads without one. The facts: in 2011, 577 cyclists were killed and 48,000 cyclists reported injuries in crashes involving motor vehicles. Nearly 75% of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries and no more than 17% of those fatally injured were wearing helmets. Despite this, only 20-25% of all cyclists wear helmets.
It seems that on some level, everyone is at least aware of the risks. The question now is how to turn a universal awareness into universal action; how to make wearing a helmet a habit. Michael Schumacher, who for months received food through a tube to his stomach and oxygen via a hose from a machine next to his bed, proves that we can never be too careful. And when British rowing champion James Cracknell was hit by a tanker travelling at 65mph three years ago while he was cycling in Arizona, his helmet saved his life.
Whether you have skied for years without sustaining an injury, or cycled across Europe incident-free, in light of scientific evidence and case studies it seems wholly careless not to wear a helmet. Consider not only the value of your life but that of your family and friends, and we hope that next time you take to the pistes or the roads you will be grateful to have a helmet firmly placed on your head.