Testing the risk compensation hypothesis for safety helmets in alpine skiing and snowboarding

Michael D. Scott, David B. Buller, Peter A. Andersen, Barbara J. Walkosz, Jennifer H. Voeks, Mark B. Dignan, Gary R. Cutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Objective: The prevalence of helmet use by alpine skiers and snowboarders was estimated and self-reports on risk taking were assessed to test for potential risk compensation when using helmets in these sports. Setting: Skiers and snowboarders were observed and interviewed at 34 resorts in the western United States and Canada. Subjects: Respondents were 1779 adult skiers and snowboarders in the 2003 ski season. Outcome measures: Observations of helmet use and questions about perceived speed and degree of challenge when not wearing a helmet (helmet wearers) or in previous ski seasons (non-helmet wearers). Results: Helmet wearers reported that they skied/snowboarded at slower speeds (OR=0.64, p<0.05) and challenged themselves less (OR=0.76, p<0.05) than non-helmet wearers. Adoption of safety helmets in 2003 (23%) continued to increase over 2002 (OR=0.46, p<0.05) and 2001 (OR=0.84, p<0.05). Conclusions: No evidence of risk compensation among helmet wearers was found. Decisions to wear helmets may be part of a risk reduction orientation. Helmet use continues to trend upwards but adoption may be slowing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-177
Number of pages5
JournalInjury Prevention
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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