Sledging helmet appeal as more and more skiers gear up

Sledging children should wear helmets, a safety expert has suggested.Michael Höllwarth, president of children’s safety awareness organisation Große schützen Kleine, said today (Fri): “Almost 2,500 children are involved in sledging accidents. Severe head and chest injuries are likely when they collide with solid objects like fence posts and cars after losing control of their sledges.”Höllwarth appealed on parents to have their kids wear ski helmets during sledging. “A cycling helmet does not provide sufficient protection,” he claimed.Only a few days ago, a four-year-old girl sustained serious head injuries when she crashed against a truck with her sledge in the Lower Austrian town of Frankenfels.Calls for wearing helmets while sledging down the slopes follows years of intense debate over whether it would be sensible to make it obligatory for skiers to wear helmets.Only two of Austria’s nine provinces, Upper Austria and Lower Austria, have implemented bylaws making wearing helmets mandatory for skiers and snowboarders aged 15 and younger.Tyrolean Social Democratic (SPÖ) Deputy Governor and Sports Councillor Hannes Gschwentner announced last winter that he was personally in support of introducing such a rule in the province. He explained his department decided to introduce an awareness campaign instead of pressing on in the provincial parliament over the issue since the SP֒s coalition partner, the People’s Party (ÖVP), opposed the idea of a ski helmet law.Research by the Austrian Skiing Federation (ÖSV) showed that almost six in 10 (57 per cent) of skiers of all age groups on the country’s slopes wore a helmet in April 2009, up from just 44 per cent in December 2008.The growing awareness has been linked with reports about serious injuries sustained by skiers not wearing helmets that winter.Detailed figures show that almost nine in 10 skiers under 15 are wearing helmets despite the lack of federal regulations enforcing them to do so.ÖSV President Peter Schröcksnadel said he appreciated the development. “Wearing a helmet is a cool thing now,” he claimed.Sport safety experts have praised insurance companies for offering their clients helmets at low prices and giving them away in competitions. Sport equipment shops are meanwhile also benefiting from the soaring demand for helmets.