“Protect UR Brain. Wear a Helmet.” That’s the message the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is sending this year to skiers and snowboarders at Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort in Cadillac.

On Friday, Jan. 14, the resort received 100 helmets from the Pediatric Trauma Program at Mott, along with 20 signs displaying that message.

In exchange, all school groups will be provided ski helmets at no additional cost and expected to wear them while enjoying the slopes. The new inventory also will be rented to the general public.

“We can fix sprains, strains and broken bones,” said Injury Prevention Program Manager Amy Teddy. “But we can’t treat brain injuries as easily as a broken arm or leg. Those injuries will end up leading to a very long hospital stay and quite possibly a long rehabilitation as well. We want kids to be active, but we want them to be safe while doing it.”

Teddy turned a private donation to the Pediatric Trauma Program into helmets and injury prevention materials last year after recognizing a need for increased awareness. She said a skiing accident at Caberfae that critically injured a Northville boy nearly two years ago spurred the effort.

Caberfae joins three other Michigan ski resorts – Mt. Brighton, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands – to help UM increase helmet usage on the slopes.

Mt. Brighton received 150 helmets, lowering the rental price from $8 to $5. And all three resorts received injury prevention materials.

The helmets are making a difference. Nearly three weeks ago, an ambulance brought Kierstyn Cheladyn to Mott after the 11-year-old Brighton girl landed on her head in a snowboarding accident on Mt. Brighton.

The next day, Kierstyn left after being treated for a concussion and fractured vertebrae. But her hospital stay could have been much longer — and her prognosis much worse — had she not worn her helmet.

“Her doctor told us it was a good thing she was wearing a helmet because her accident could have been deadly,” said her mom, Kelly Cheladyn. “That shocked all of us.”

Kierstyn is one of three patients admitted to Mott this year with injuries sustained on the slopes. Like Kierstyn, the other two wore helmets and avoided series injuries, Teddy said.

In the last five years, nearly 30 children under 18 have been admitted to Mott for an injury sustained while skiing or snowboarding. The majority of the cases were head injuries that may have been prevented had the patient been wearing a helmet, Teddy says.

Thanks to UM’s efforts, helmet rentals at Mt. Brighton tripled between 2009 and 2010.

The program’s success led Mt. Brighton administrators to require all ski instructors to wear helmets on the slopes this year, spurring the Pediatric Trauma Program to donate 100 more helmets.

Ski helmets could prevent or reduce the effects of 50 percent of head injuries suffered by children under the age of 15 while skiing or snowboarding, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

More at www.med.umich.edu/mott.


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