Thursday, October 9, 2008

PHAT - Protect Your Head at All Times

Last week I attended the PHAT Conference in Burlington and wanted to pass on the cliff notes.

The conference was a unique collaborative effort designed to make Vermont Skiing And Riding not only the "BEST" in the nation but also the "SAFEST"
It was sponsored by the Vermont Snow Sports Research Team, home of the PHAT program. The PHAT initiative (Protect you Head at All Times, Protect your Head on All Terrain) is a program designed to voluntarily improve ski helmet use throughout our state and the entire nation. The program delivers a positive, noncoercive message stressing the benefits of both skiing and snowboarding as well as responsible helmet use.
The PHAT program was originally developed as an academic/industry collaboration between The University of Vermont and Smugglers Notch Resort. Over the past six years the team has refined the program and documented it’s success in over 70,000 observations of skier behavior.

Items discussed:

- The science behind the role of helmets in skiing and snowboarding.
- A neurosurgeon’s perspective on ski helmets and head injuries
- Public Health implications of injury prevention programs
- Making the culture of a resort helmet friendly
- Spreading PHAT in Vermont and Beyond

Currently, Okemo, Smuggs, Bolton, Jay, Bromley, Sugarbush, Ascutney are the 7 resorts that support the PHAT effort.

We have the PHAT people booked to kick off National Safety Week here at Okemo on
January 18th and a return visit on PHAT Tuesday, February 24th.

Interesting facts per recent studies:

- 135,000 – 5-18yr olds incur head injuries each year in the U.S. (all sports)
- Snowboarders are 3 to 4 times more likely to sustain a head injury than skiers
- Impact damage to helmets can be invisible to the human eye
- Adult male snowboarders are the most likely to wear helmets
- Nationwide helmet use is around 30%
- Females are still less likely to wear a helmet (possible hair effect)
- Tourists are less invested in safety
- 2005 – present there has been a 40-62% reduction in head injuries due to increased helmet use

Helmet usage is very important to me. I’ve had my share of concussions – 2 were severe and one had me in the hospital for days suffering from amnesia.
My wife suffered an equestrian accident a few years ago, besides the 30 stitches to her face, the brim of her helmet saved her nose and cheek bones from being crushed.
Last year there were over 46,000 Equestrian accidents with over 20% being head and neck injuries.

I look forward to Okemo's continued support of the PHAT initiative. More PHAT information can be found at

Be safe out there!

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