Aug 30, 2015

Helmets

Reposted by reader request.

Figure skating is way behind other youth and recreational sports in not only developing, but even in tolerating safety gear.  I have had coaches contradict me in front of parents when I have suggested safety gear as rudimentary as gloves and hats. Adults who wear knee and wrist guards are ridiculed and often, as happened recently, feel compelled to apologize for using this basic protection. Padded boards are not even considered because of the expense, and yet padded boards would have prevented two career-ending injuries at the Ice Rink of the Damned. So I guess two crippled children is considered a reasonable trade off.  All national and international events now have padded boards. (Write your local and state elected officials demanding padded boards at ice rinks.)

Anyway, all polemics aside, here's a guide to helmets.

Hockey helmets
Many rinks require helmets for skaters in hockey skates. If you're going to be playing hockey, then go ahead and invest in this. If you're just in hockey skates for spit and giggles, any helmet is fine, but you really should be in a helmet if you're not experienced in hockey skates.

Bike helmet
Never wear this type of helmet for skating.
Pointy back bike helmets like the one pictured should never be worn on the ice. If you fall on the back of your head the pointed extension can force your neck forward, adding whiplash or worse to your woes.

You also need to wear it properly. Wearing a helmet too far forward or too far back is pretty much equivalent to not wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet that is too small or too big is also pointless. Never wear a hat under your helmet, even outdoors. I always wonder, when I see a helmet precariously perched on top of a hat, if parents are expecting heavy objects to drop directly onto the top of the skater's head, because that is the only scenario in which this makes any sense.

 Skateboarder's helmet
This is the best type of helmet for skating, largely because it was designed for, well, skating. Google image search gives you the idea.

Soccer helmet
I've seen some kids wearing these lately; I suppose they like them because 1. they're discreet and 2. they've already got one. They're for head shots (see? other youth sports have figured out that head injuries are a bad idea and should be mitigated.) But unless you get the full-head ones, they don't really do the job, because they have no padding on the back. These are getting the idea, though. Skating falls do not tend to be the 20-foot projectile falls you're getting with bikes and skate boards. They're head knocks--you've already fallen and need something for that last 4 inches of air between your head and the ice.

Ice Halo
This is currently the only commercial helmet created especially for the ice. I've been wearing one for several months and can attest that they are comfortable, reasonably cool, and attractive. I think they're great. I don't get any remuneration from Ice Halo, but you  can get 5% off if you mention Xanboni when you buy one.

"Oh, but Johnny won't wear a helmet," says helpless mom. Fine, then Johnny doesn't get to skate, just as he doesn't get to play hockey without gear, or baseball without a cup, or soccer without shin guards. Really, folks, grow a pair. You're bigger than them.

Originally posted January 2012. 

23 comments:

  1. The consumer reports article you linked to recommends bike helmets for ice skating, but the problem they point out is that bike helmets are made for a SINGLE impact. In a tots class, kids fall on those things ten times in a half hour...

    I'm still debating the ice halo. They look MUCH sillier than a normal helmet, and I'm confused how it doesn't just pop right off your head in a fall.

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    1. I tried it with several high level skaters and it's solid. Plus, everyone just thinks I look like one of those stylish Russian coaches.

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    2. Also, excellent point about the single impact issue. The real solution, of course, is safety equipment designed with both the medical and the aesthetic needs of skaters in mind.

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  2. Just to let you know, Skate Canada expects all of its Learn-to-skate (Can skate, kid skate and pre-power skate) participants to wear hockey helmets... Bike helmets are no longer permitted, because they are not designed for impact while hockey helmets (I don't know about skateboarding helmets) are I know that there are some Canadians who read your blog.
    I quite enjoy it by the way!

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  3. Here is the link:
    http://www.frankfordfsc.ca/Helmets_for_CanSkate_policy.pdf

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  4. Hi Xan,

    In Canada, per Skate Canada's Helmet Policy, CSA approved hockey/skating helmets are required for CanSkate levels 1-5 (similar to your learn to skate levels). At the preschool levels (Snowplow Sam?) many clubs require the hockey faceguard, not just the helmet. There are CanSkate levels 1-7, but after CanSkate 5 helmets can come off and many skating clubs move the kids to the StarSkate (figure skating stream similar to your freestyle) levels. There is some overlap in the skills. My daughter moved to StarSkate after completing CanSkate 5, but our club gave her the Stage 6 and 7 badges when she completed them. StarSkate levels aren't as precisely defined (clubs seem to make up their own). Our club moves kids through StarSkate levels based on the number of Skate Canada points they have (based on completing skating tests).

    For those unfamiliar with the Canadian system, Skate Canada (not CanSkate) is our governing association; I've listed a link to the programs for interested readers. http://www.skatecanada.ca/en-us/development/programsschedules.aspx

    But I digress. Short answer? In this Canadian skating mom's opinion, helmets are good.

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  5. @Kim,

    Whoops - we were posting simutaneously. GMTA. :)

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  6. Thank you for this post. When I took the Basic Skills seminar last summer, Susie Worley herself said that while we cannot require helmets we should strongly recommend them, she shuddered at the fact that there are parents who give their kids bike helmets that barely cover the back of the head.

    As coaches, a parent should listen to us over what little jimmy wants. I can't tell you how many kids have taken off their helmets and the parent lets them keep it off even though we say that they need to put the helmet back on. They'll thank us when their kid doesn't suffer a major head injury because another kid bumped into them and they fell over.

    Regarding the ice halo, I have a friend who has one and she let me try it on. It's SUPER secure. It fits to your head and it really doesn't look as crazy as you think it would. She said she won't practice without it now.

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  7. @Deb, our club (Nanaimo skating club) also suggests to parents of children who are in their first year of skating (or longer if the child is still unsteady), attach the face mask piece that comes with most hockey helmets. (the added bonus to this is it keeps mitts out of mouths!).

    My children are both beyond the Canskate stage of skating, but when they were, they both wore hockey helmets (Skate Canada has been recommending hockey helmets since 2004, however it became mandatory this summer). and when I taught as an amateur coach (wow some 30 years ago!) we had children who wore hockey helmets then. Helmets are good. Period. I know some pairs skaters who were helmets when learning a new skill.

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  8. @Kim, when my older children were in the CanSkate levels (perhaps ten years ago), our club required hockey helmets even though it wasn't formal Skate Canada policy at that time.

    Another U.S./Canada difference; not only can you not rent skates here, everyone is expected to also have a helmet. There's no teasing because it's just normal; every kid wears one. It would be nice to have a post CanSkate helmet option that is lighter and doesn't limit peripheral vision the way a hockey helmet can. I've never seen a halo here; maybe that's the next step.

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  9. Xan, just wondering...

    Do you believe that gymnasts should wear helmets too? They seem more likely than figure skaters to have head injuries (although they do have padding on their equipment).

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    1. I don't know enough about injuries in gymnastics, but my sense is that they aren't head, but more neck, bone and soft tissue. And yes, they operate in a padded environment.

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  10. They don't have padding on the boards at any competitions...at the 2010 Olympics they had them but that's pretty much it.

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  11. I confess, I pulled my statement from memory, but my memory tells me that Worlds and GP Final had padded boards. Since I'm not a journalist, I am not planning to confirm this. Please feel free to do the research for me.

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  12. The Same AnonymousJanuary 22, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Why padded boards are a good idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyZoP-4Nay4 + everyone who's had the same thing happen and was too badly injured to get up like Kiira.

    I don't wear a helmet to skate now, but I sort of want to.

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  13. The Same AnonymousJanuary 22, 2012 at 3:41 AM

    Also, I'm curious about the Ice Halo. Does it cover all the areas where head impact is likely to occur?

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    1. It doesn't cover the top of the head, so if you're sailing head first into the boards (I have seen this) it won't help. It does protect forhead and back of the head, and mitigates cheek bumps. It won't help what I call "kiss the ice" injuries, most common in very small children, who commonly bump their chins when falling, don't ask me why, but then the only helmt that will help that is a masked hockey helmet. However, I've never seen this accident yield worse than a cut inner lip; I have observed a child with this injury need a couple of stitches.

      You cannot, and should not frankly, protect from every conceivable injury. What you can do is plan for the potentially worst injuries, namely the ones most likely to cause concussion.

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  14. I've been wanting a helmet for a few weeks now. And I saw this post recently. Today I hit my head on the ice and though I'm fine, I really should get a helmet. I hit my head in the center, so an ice halo isn't quite the right fit for my needs. I'm happy that there are others out there who see the importance of head protection.

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  15. I know it is often faux pas to post on old subjects, though I notice the original topic was reposted more recently by reader request. As things do change with time I thought I would throw in my very limited two cents. I am a new adult skater, limited lessons as a child and skated recreationally in college. My husband and I have recently simply started going to public sessions about three mornings a week for the past couple of months. We are practicing the basics, getting our feet wet so to speak. As an equestrian for over 35 years, head protection is no new subject for me. I have chosen head protection riding my horses over the years depending on the situation, but will admit that I do not always wear it, and can understand why many skaters do not always wear it either. For adults, it is a personal choice that you weigh risks on. Regardless, riding helmets are far more advanced than any offered for figure skating currently. As a rank newbie, my decisions for choosing personal protection gear have been a bit daunting with skating. I have opted currently for wrist guards at all times, and they saved me good last week...I went down hard on my right hand whilst getting used to my new skates. I have also opted for this cap, known as a Crashe cap. I did not see it mentioned on here, so I thought I would add it. It is a knit cap with protective inserts. It makes no specific safety claims, such as per ASTM with other helmets, but does appear to be much better than nothing at all. I wear the lighter material one secured with a longer knit cap over it that covers my ears. I like that it covers the back of my head, and in the lovely fall I had last week where I sat down hard, it stayed put nicely, It feels snug though not uncomfortable, but again, I wear mine with a little extra security with the additional hat. Hopefully it is ok to post the link, I am in no way affiliated with the company. http://crasche.com/blog My husband thinks it is neat, but he has a pretty large head and is not convinced the current sizes would fit him well. He has opted for wrist guards only, and I feel they are imperative for him as he has had hand issues in the past and does not need more. I think we all need to make safety equipment decisions for ourselves in any sport based on a number of factors, and it is nice to know what your options are.

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    1. No worries! Thanks for the input. Important to keep current (and you are evidence that people still find this blog!)

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  16. know it is often faux pas to post on old subjects though I notice the original was reposted more recently by reader request. As things do change with time I thought I would throw my very limited two cents in. I am a new adult skater, limited lessons as a child and skated recreationally in college. My husband and I have recently simply started going to public sessions about three mornings a week for the past couple of months. We are practicing the basics, getting our feet wet so to speak. As an equestrian for over 35 years, head protection is no new subject for me. I have chosen head protection riding my horses over the years depending on the situation, but will admit that I do not always wear it, and can understand why many skaters do not always wear it either, for adults, it is a personal choice that you weigh risks on. Regardless, riding helmets are far more advanced than any offered for figure skating currently. As a rank newbie, my decisions for personal protection gear have been a bit daunting with skating. I have opted currently for wrist guards at all times, and they saved me good last week...I went down hard on my right hand whilst getting used to my new skates. But I have also opted for this cap, known as a Crashe cap. I did not see it mentioned on here. It is a knit cap with protective inserts. It makes no specific safety claims, such as per ASTM with equestrian helmets, but does appear to be much better than nothing at all. I wear the lighter material one secured with a longer knit cap over it that covers my ears. I like that it covers the back of my head, and in the lovely fall I had last week where I sat down hard, it stayed put nicely, It feels snug but not uncomfortable, but again, I wear mine with a little extra security with the additional hat. Hopefully it is ok to post the link, I am in no way affiliated with the company. http://crasche.com/blog My husband thinks it is near, but he has a pretty large head and it not convinced the current sizes would fit him right. He opted for wrist guards only and I feel they are imperative for him as he has had hand issues in the past and does not need more. I think we all need to make safety equipment decisions for ourselves in any sport bad on a number of factors, and it is nice to know what your options are.

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  17. Looks like they also have an ice-halo style version that is markete specifically for skaters. (This is not an endorsement). I understand the comfort issues but find it appalling that the figure skating world is not just behind on this issue, but actively disdainful if not hostile despite several prominent, life-threatening and career-ending injuries among elite skaters. And those are the only ones we hear about. http://crasche.com/blog

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    1. It is me again "unknown" aka Holly, regarding the Crashe website. I wanted to mention that with their ice halo style, I notice there is good coverage of the base of the skull, something I do not see in the ice halos worn around our rink. The base is a spot that can be tough to protect unless the device fits really well. I have not worn the Crashe ice halo style, and again, no endorsement from me either, but I am impressed with the design.

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