Objective: The prevalence of helmet use by alpine skiers and snowboarders was estimated and self-reports on risk taking were assessed to test for potential risk compensation when using helmets in these sports.
Setting: Skiers and snowboarders were observed and interviewed at 34 resorts in the western United States and Canada.
Subjects: Respondents were 1779 adult skiers and snowboarders in the 2003 ski season.
Outcome measures: Observations of helmet use and questions about perceived speed and degree of challenge when not wearing a helmet (helmet wearers) or in previous ski seasons (non-helmet wearers).
Results: Helmet wearers reported that they skied/snowboarded at slower speeds (OR = 0.64, p<0.05) and challenged themselves less (OR = 0.76, p<0.05) than non-helmet wearers. Adoption of safety helmets in 2003 (23%) continued to increase over 2002 (OR = 0.46, p<0.05) and 2001 (OR = 0.84, p<0.05).
Conclusions: No evidence of risk compensation among helmet wearers was found. Decisions to wear helmets may be part of a risk reduction orientation. Helmet use continues to trend upwards but adoption may be slowing.
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Funding: This project was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA81028).
Competing interests: None declared.