The New York Times just posted an article reporting the chief medical examiner's assessment of what killed actress Natasha Richardson, who took a fall on Monday during a beginners ski lesson at Mont Tremblant Ski Resort in Quebec. The autopsy indicated that Richardson died of a brain hemorrhage caused by "blunt impact." After her fall, the actress initially turned down medical treatment. Later a "crushing" headache caused her to seek care. She died on Wednesday at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital.
How would this event have played out if Richardson had been wearing a helmet? We asked our go-to adventure-sports columnist, Doc Wild, or Christopher Van Tilberg. M.D., who specializes in wilderness, travel, and sports medicine, to give us his thoughts:
"Do helmets save lives? Sure. We wear them biking, climbing, playing hockey, and kayaking, but they have yet to become universally accepted with skiing and snowboarding. They may not offer fail-safe protection from a high-speed collision with a stationary object like a tree, but they certainly offer some protection for impact with rocks and ice while carving the slopes.
"In the case of Natasha Richardson, it's hard to say whether a helmet would have saved a life. An internal bleed inside the head occurs when the brain gets shocked inside the skull. That can happen when the brain gets jostled, even thought the impact may be minor, or the impact is against a soft surface. Sometimes this occurs with football players, who wear a helmet and hit soft turf, but still sustain a brain bruise or bleed.
- Nat Geo Expeditions