Oct 16, 2011, 1:59 PM
Post #7 of 14
From Margaret L. Herzog, PH.D., Clinical Psychologist:
Re: [The Publisher] WILL HELMETS BECOME AS COMMON AS LIFEJACKETS?
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I was pleased to see the recent article regarding helmets for dinghy sailors. I have been concerned about the risks of concussions in dingy sailors for many years. My son, at age 15 , was hit by a boom during a microburst , thrown out of his laser and was found face down ,unconscious in the water.
Despite a terrifying accident, poor protocol subsequent to the accident and a major concussion, he thankfully recovered from the event. The neurologist whom we consulted with instructed him to wear a helmet for all future sailing in winds over 13 knots, to reduce risk of future concussions. Though he wore a helmet for one year, he did not comply with the recommendation after age 16, through 9 seasons of high school and college sailing. A helmet sits in the closet in his home bedroom. You can imagine how ridiculous a young man might feel, being the only sailor in a helmet in the entire East Coast.
Subsequent to the accident, I contacted the US sailing youth division regarding the risks to youths in the sport . I recommended a study to look at concussions in youth sailing with an eye toward introducing mandated helmet use in youngsters. My inquiry was minimized by the youth committee chair, who indicated that the "data" only suggested that ocean sailors incur concussions. When I followed up and asked if there had been adequate studies looking at youth sailing, I discovered that there had been minimal formalized data collected.
Subsequently, I contacted helmet manufacturers to inquire if a prototype helmet for sailing could be introduced. I was told that the prototype could readily be made, however there was no market for the product. In other words, the consumer market needed to indicate the need, in order to introduce the product.
It seems as if sailing is one of the few 'motion sports" that ignores the issue of the risk of concussions. Helmets are utilized in most motion sports including skiing, snowboarding, biking, rafting, kayaking . In addition, professional and school sports have looked at the risks of activities subsequent to concussions and have created protocals to protect athletes.
In an age when proactive and responsible attention to the risks of brain injury is de rigeur, the mores in the sport of sailing and US sailing is indeed behind the curve in looking at the risks of dingy sailing in youths, college sailors and adult sailors. US sailing should devise a mandated reporting system of incidents of concussions. Youth and college sailors should be mandated to wear helmets above 13 to 15 knots of wind. Given the potential velocity of the boom during an accidental gype, the need to protect the head with a helmet is as critical a Coast Guard approved life jacket for dingy sailors.
From Dean Dietrich, Tiburon, CA:
I might as well add my boom story since it is unique. Several years ago, I was racing wing 'n wing with the Alerion Express 28 fleet in San Francisco. As we approached Alcatraz from the City side, the boat on my right was yawing considerably, momentarily locked rigs with a boat to his right, and then careened over to my boat. Our bows struck at about a 30 degree angle, with his boom initially to starboard (he was on port tack) causing him to heel over and jibe. His boom swept across the cockpit of my boat where I was sitting on the starboard side; I regained consciousness at SF General Hospital. I suffered some nerve damage to my eye, but now I am OK. The moral of the story: the boom that hits you may not be your own.