Tips On Staying Safe On The Slopes

The Couch CBS-TV New York—January 2, 2014

Dr. David Wellman, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, stops by The Couch.


Doctors say the latest brain scan on racing legend Michael Schmacher is showing some improvement after a second brain surgery. The seven-time formula one champion suffered a really bad head injury while skiing off the trail in the alps and hitting his head on a rock. Schumacher was wearing a helmet and doctors say that is what saved his life. Joining us this morning is Dr. David Wellman who is an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Let's talk about the helmet and how important that can be.

I think it's probably one of the biggest changes on the slopes that we have probably seen in the past 15 years. People are starting to pay a whole lot more attention to brain health and have realized that even critical brain injuries can happen on the easiest of slopes. Even a simple fall onto ice can cause devastating problems similar to the one Michael Shumacher had.

Is it required when you go skiing to wear helmets? Are there any laws?

No, no laws. Even a basic skier can hit speeds of 40 miles per hour pretty easily. Some of these injuries can be very devastating. Skiing with a helmet should be a requirement for people thinking about hitting the slopes this year.

What do you do if yourself or your child does suffer a fall? Is there a critical period?

There is. The issue with brain injury is swelling and pressure on the brain. So the quicker that you can get to them, the better the outcomes are going to be. For that reason you should always ski with a friend.

They also say ski goggles or sunglasses actually also help with safety as well.

Sure. The critical thing is to plan. When you are hitting the slopes wear a helmet. And you have to be able to see. If it's foggy, or if it's snowing, having some type of cover for your eyes would be critical. And have your equipment checked out.

If someone does suffer a brain injury, what is the lucid interval? What is that?

It's a period were after the initial trauma people actually seem okay. Even if they pass out at the time of the fall, they can get up, wake up, talk, walk and act normally, and then a few hours later start to decompensate.

So it's good to get medical attention right away.

Absolutely. If there is any question about suffering a significant head injury it's better to play it safe and get checked out.

View the segment at cbslocal.com.

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