Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Helmets Revisited

Helmets for sports have been in the news a lot lately.




American professional football players do wear helmets but that has not saved some of them from suffering severe head trauma and subsequent problems after they retire such as Parkinson's disease and ALS and Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia at relatively early ages. Yesterday it was reported that the NFL and lawyers for more than 4,000 former players, who said the league hid from them the dangers of repeated hits to the head, have agreed on the details of a $760 million settlement in compensation for retirees with head trauma.



And a week ago, the former Formula One racing car driver, Michael Schumacher, was in a skiing accident where he hit his head on a rock, the impact reportedly splitting open his helmet. Schumacher is still in a medically induced coma with his prognosis uncertain.



So people who get hit on the head while wearing a helmet can still get hurt.

But that's not an argument for not wearing a helmet. Or is it?



I raise the issue again because someone recently left a comment on a 2011 post of mine Kids Look Cool Sailing in Helmets. The initial comments (from older folk mainly) were somewhat dismissive of the idea of helmets in sailing.

"Helmets are for the sissies and the uncool," said one reader.

"Kids look cool sailing when they learn to freaking duck. If they can't do that, then maybe Nanny should not let them out on the water," said another.





Robyn Lesh

The recent comment was from MIT sophomore Robyn Lesh and I will repeat it here in its entirety and let you reflect on her message….


I have been sailing I was six days old. Big boats, small boats, all boats. I now race in college and was NESSA sailor of the week earlier this year. I know boats and am certainly not a sissy.

Last fall I got bumped on the head by an fj boom, not hard, not unlike other bumps like everyone has gotten from the boom at some point. Two hours later, I couldn't race worth ten cents. Two months later I am still concussed. I still can't think as clearly or as quickly as before and can not yet return to athletic activity.

Helmets are NOT stupid or uncool. They are safe. Save your brain and consider a helmet.

People who say helmets are uncool or dumb don't know how horrible a concussion is. Everything about YOU as a person is controlled by your brain. When you bruise your brain (concussion) everything from your smartness to your personality can be effected.

Think about it.

16 comments:

Baydog said...

I will keep wearing my helmet

Tillerman said...

Good man!

Baydog said...

I have been hit twice in the head by a boom, however. First time I was maybe two, sitting on the cabin top, and Dad dove in and scooped me up. Second time I was forty, standing in the companionway telling everyone else to watch their heads while we gybed. 7 staples later.....

Tillerman said...

I have lost count of the number of times I have been hit on the head by a boom.

Maybe that explains a lot?

R said...

I wonder if the anti-helmet folks have an affliction similar to what Mario Vitton just described as Commercial Fishing Disease in a column responding to the NY Times Magazine piece about the fisherman who fell overboard. Why we could go back to oilskins, wool underwear, cotton sails, wooden boats, and all the other things that make sailing an authentic experience.

Tillerman said...

Good point R. I think it's all about how we deal with risk in our adventure sports and our everyday lives. For some people an element of danger is part of the the thrill. Take part of that away and the experience is not so real for them.

For me, the risk of a capsize is enough. I don't need the risk of several months of feeling like a zombie, or worse the risk of spending the last few years of my life with dementia, to make the sport exciting enough for me.

Let's hear some comments about what kind of helmets are best for sailors...

Baydog said...

T, can you name the two players in the photo, and which other sport #72 participated in where a helmet would've helped?

Jeff Schultz said...

Windsurfers wear Gath helmets, among others http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=65279038@N00&q=helmet

Tillerman said...

Baydog, the two players are Craig Morton and Ed Jones.

#72 is Ed Jones who played for the Dallas Cowboy from 1974–1978 and 1980–1989. In 1979, he attempted a career in professional boxing. I guess a helmet might have helped him there?

Jones is pursuing his own lawsuit against the NFL.

PeconicPuffin said...

The more hectic or potentially dangerous the conditions, the more likely I am to put on one of my two helmets. For winter sailing I'm always in a helmet. An extra benefit of a white or brightly colored skullbucket is it makes you more visible if you're in the water sans boat or board.

Tillerman said...

What brand and model of helmet do you wear PeconicPuffin?

Jeremiah Blatz said...

Sailing helmets seem like a good idea, especially since they don't need to stand up to the abuse that you get in football or bicycling, and so can be lighter and smaller...

yarg said...

As a high school sailing coach we have had one serious concussion (out of school/sailing for 1 week to 3 months) every season for the last seven seasons in a row. Worst sailors, best sailors, heavy wind, light wind. Some of the kids have started wearing helmets on their own. Last fall we reached the breaking point with accident reports, doctors examinations, missed school, losing sailors for months, etc. It seems so much simpler to just wear helmets. Starting in the spring they will be mandatory.
Helmets won't prevent every injury, but for $35 they take a lot of bangs for the buck.
I wear my Gath helmet almost every time I sail. I have tried or have friends or kids use kayak helmets from NRS, Shred Ready, and Bern. They will all do the job. For more on my helmet recommendations go to http://apparentwind.blogspot.com/search/label/Gear

Anonymous said...

I use a thin bicycle helmet in winds over 8 m/s and go 110% into the gybes.Thats fun, and my colleges without helmets go 70-80%/Laserman

Anonymous said...

I got whacked on the head during a gybe in my Starboat 2 days ago, and have been whacked a few times by a Finn boom. I ordered a Gath helmet today, despite that fact that my 25 year old son, who crews for an x-olympian in the same class, will disinherit me...if that's possible for a son to disinherit a father.

SoxSail said...

While helmets help when you do get hit, they don't prevent concussions (see Football League, National). The best way to prevent concussions is to not get hit, and helmets add size to your head, while decreasing visibility. I still think it's possible they're an overall good in the sport, but I don't know that it's cut and dried.

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