Doctor: Helmet probably saved snowboarder's life at Sochi Olympics

Published On: Feb 10 2014 12:10:13 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 10 2014 12:22:22 PM EST

Dr. James Bicos

Still think that helmets don’t matter for skiing or snowboarding? Just ask Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova, who took a nasty fall during the inaugural women’s slopestyle snowboarding competition on Feb. 9, 2014.

Pancochova missed a landing during the competition and landed on her back. She tumbled to the bottom of the hill where she lay motionless for a couple of minutes. She was attended to by the medical staff who found that she cracked her helmet in half.


She was able to board down the hill, but was visibly shaken up, as could be seen by the cameras.

There were speculations as to an injury, but there is no doubt in my mind that she suffered a concussion.


Helmet use during skiing or snowboarding has luckily risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Seventy percent of all current skiers or snowboarders in the United States wear helmets now.

Helmet use came to full light earlier this year when racing legend Michael Schumacher suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing at a resort in Meribel, France. He WAS wearing a helmet.

In fact, the National Ski Areas Association have published data, that although helmet use is up, it has not correlated with a decrease rate of injuries.


Many reasons have been stated as to why the injuries keep on rising despite the increased helmet use. The main one is that skiers and snowboarders are doing more difficult maneuvers than ever before that increase the overall risk of the sport dramatically, despite the use of helmets. In addition, the increases in back country skiing or boarding has also increased the risk of the sport.

As for Schumacher, even though he suffered a traumatic brain injury while wearing a helmet, he would have died if not wearing one.


In my opinion, Pancochova’s helmet also saved her life in Sochi!


The take home point? Wear your helmet while skiing or snowboarding!

Helmets can prevent injuries. They keep your head nice and warm while you are outside and even come with built in wireless speakers so you can carve up the course in style!

About the author:
Dr. James Bicos is a Beaumont orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Performance Orthopedics in Bingham Farms. He has cared for injured Olympic athletes during competitions and at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Dr. Bicos is blogging for Local 4 about his impressions of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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