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A cyclist is silhouetted while passing underneath West Georgia St. near Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday September 13, 2010. DARRYL DYCK FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL (DARRYL DYCK/DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail)
A cyclist is silhouetted while passing underneath West Georgia St. near Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday September 13, 2010. DARRYL DYCK FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL (DARRYL DYCK/DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail)

Concussion experts took your questions: Do helmets keep you safe? Add to ...

Charles Tator: Dear Neil, your question is very important, and I do not have all the answers. However, I would certainly strongly advocate a no "hits to the head" rule for hockey. In football, hits to the head can be reduced drastically by rule changes with respect to players in many positions known to cause head contact. Many years ago, football introduced specific rules against spearing and clotheslining which reduced broken necks in football, and I have confidence that they can do the same with concussions.

Jeff: TO Neil F. I think that the research data you are quoting probably involves a lack of diagnosis of 'very' mild concussions. The players are probably getting concussions, but without losing consciousness. This happens, as it has happened to me. For these cases, there are two types of helmet technologies that will hopefully improve health. The energy-dissipating liners I've described above, as well as the new 'concussion-level' senors to indicate that a potentially injurious impact has occurred (although this is also a feature of the energy-dissipating helmet system). We will hopefully find that undiagnosed concussions will be severely limited in the future.

Adam: My kids (4 & 6yrs old) are learning how to ski, however, I learned from many of the ski shops that sell helmets that there is no current standard (i.e. CSA rated) that are applicable to ski helmets in Canada. is that true? If true, what advice can you give. I ensure that they use helmet for sports (skating/skiing/biking/etc...)

Charles Tator: CSA has a skiing-boarding standard for snow helmets. However, to date, it has not been enforced and so when you buy a helmet for these sports you will have to rely on standards developed elsewhere, including the USA and Europe. In my view, the Canadian standard is better because it is more protective. We should be active in promoting its use with industry and governments.

injuryfreekarma: Definitely agree with Dr. Tator...no hits to the head policy especially for minor hockey. Bringing the fun back to hockey.

Ben: I was hit by a call last summer while riding my bike. I think helemets should be required by law for everyone like they are in Nova Scotia.

Paul: When I ride without a helmet I have an overwhelming sense of vulnerability and ride slowly and stay out of traffic but when I wear my helmet I tend to ride faster and ride boldly in traffic, asserting my rights on the road, because I feel much safer with my head covered. I've heard similar anectodal evidence and wondering if there are studies supporting that behavior or if I'm a freak who can't control my subconscious response to the feeling of safety a helmet gives.

Charles Tator: I agree that all provinces should copy the excellent and comprehensive street activity helmet laws of Nova Scotia, where the laws cover all ages, and all wheeled and manually operated street activities such as bicycling, skateboarding, in-line skating , etc.

Gerry Wilde: Comment on "culture." In industrial settings the accident rate per capita (another pun) can be reduced significantly by the introduction of incentives for accident-free operation, as is shown in scores of studies). From incentives to culture, il n'a qu'un pas. What is ecconomically advantageous becomes the proper thing to do.

Charles Tator: Sorry, I have to go to look after people who were not wearing helmets.

Cliff Lee - The Globe and Mail: Yes, it does looks like our hours is just about up here. Thanks again for your time, today, Dr. Tator, Dr. Wilde and Ms. McIlroy.

Gerry Wilde: F0r people who like to make up theier own minds on risk compensation (homeostasis), here is website: psyc.queensu/target

Anne McIlroy: Thanks everyone

Neil FitzGerald: Gerry - are you suggesting professional and/or minor league teams offer a monetary incentive for the proper tackling behaviour on the field? Interesting - I wonder how that would be realized?

Cliff Lee - The Globe and Mail: Neil, sorry, we're out of time, but please feel free to check out Dr. Wilde's site, or seek him out for a one-on-one answer.

Jeff: Unfortunately, the CSA (and ASTM in the USA) standards for helmets are too lax. A suggested threshold for concussions is 90 g to 100 g. So what 'g level' do the CSA and ASTM limit hockey helmets when dropped from a height of 1 m (less than the height of a 5 year-old on skates? 275 g!!! The standards are only a first step, and not nearly stringent enough. This is partly why Hockey Canada acknowledges that current hockey helmets don't prevent concussions.

Cliff Lee - The Globe and Mail: And thanks again everyone for joining us today!

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