01/17/2012 02:18 EST | Updated 03/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Mandatory helmets urged for skiers, snowboarders

Helmets should be mandatory for skiers and snowboarders of all ages, a medical group says.

The Canadian Pediatric Society on Tuesday urged for mandatory helmet legislation, saying it could reduce the risk of injury, disability and death on the slopes.

"People think that because they are an experienced skier or snowboarder they won't get injured. But they can't control external factors like the terrain or other skiers who might not be as experienced," said Dr. Natalie Yanchar, chair of the group's injury prevention committee.

"The risk is especially high for children and youth, who have increased vulnerability to head injuries and take longer to recover," she added in a release.

The group's recommendations for skiers and snowboarders included:

- Wear proper equipment including a helmet and goggles, plus wrist guards for snowboarding.

- Check equipment at the start of each ski day to ensure that the boots fit and the bindings are adjusted correctly.

- Avoid borrowing equipment and rent only from a reputable ski shop or resort.

- Take lessons from a certified instructor.

- Never ski or snowboard alone.

Also on Tuesday, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said skiing and snowboarding injuries are more than twice as common as hockey injuries.

In 2010-11, there were 2,329 hospital admissions for a skiing or snowboarding fall or crash, compared with 1,114 hockey-related hospitalizations, the institute said.

Half of all hospitalizations that year were for hockey injuries (542 out of 1,114) and close to one-third of all those for skiing and snowboarding (689 out of 2,329) were among people age 10 to 19.

The total number of hospitalizations related to seasonal activities has not changed much since 2006-07, CIHI reported.

Among those age 50 and older, falls on ice were the most common cause of serious injury during the winter, excluding motor vehicle collisions.