Richardson's death reignites ski helmet debate

Fri Mar 20, 2009 3:47pm EDT
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith

CANBERRA (Reuters) - The death of British actress Natasha Richardson from a severe brain injury following a skiing accident has reignited the debate over helmets on ski slopes.

Richardson, 45, a member of Britain's Redgrave acting dynasty, fell during a private skiing lesson on a beginners' slope at Canada's Mont Tremblant resort on Monday. She died in New York on Wednesday, surrounded by her family.

Her death came about 10 years after singer-turned-politician Sonny Bono and Michael L. Kennedy, son of assassinated Robert F. Kennedy, died after skiing into trees at high speed and not wearing a helmet.

Richardson was reportedly not wearing a helmet.

Helmets, once rarely seen on skiers or snowboarders, have become increasingly popular but the jury remains divided on their effectiveness and whether their use should be compulsory.

Some medical groups, including the Association of Quebec Emergency Room Doctors, have called for helmets to be mandatory, claiming 60 percent of head traumas could be avoided, and some countries are introducing laws over helmet use for children.

Jeff Hanle, a spokesman for the Aspen Skiing company that runs resorts in Colorado, said all children under 12 at Aspen ski schools had to wear helmets but otherwise it was not mandatory.

"We recommend helmet use for everyone for we don't require it for adults. It is not for the industry to regulate," said Hanle.   Continued...