The website post-gazette.com reported in a story on March 20, 2009 about the untimely death in a Manhattan hospital of actress Natasha Richardson, 45 who suffered head injuries while skiing in Quebec. Richardson’s death has put the helmet debate back in the spotlight. Richardson was skiing without a helmet at the Mont Ttreblant resort when she fell while riding on the beginner slope. According to Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiners Office, Richardson’s fall caused epidural hematoma, producing bleeding between the brain covering and the skull.
An ambulance was called but the paramedics never saw Richardson. Director of operations at the emergency services company, Yvess Coderre, stated to reporters that when the paramedics arrived at the resort they were told they were no longer needed and sent back before ever seeing Richardson. Some time later another ambulance was summoned to the resort when her condition had gotten significantly worse and she was rushed to the hospital.
Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Allegheny General Hospital, Dr. Jack Wilberger said, “It sounds like she had a relatively prolonged period of being relatively OK. Usually with this type of problem people get into trouble in a short period of time. Such injuries involve a laceration of an artery just under the skull bone, which can lead to significant bleeding to build up to a level that causes unconsciousness. Usually unconsciousness occurs in 15 to 20 minutes. It sounds to me that what happened to her is one-in-a-million kind of chance of occurrence.”
According to reports, slightly more than half of advanced skiers wear helmets, with a small but significant upward trend occurring within the last few years. Records show that ski helmets are only helpful up to speeds of 14 mph, and do not offer much protection from falling at higher speeds.
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