SBD/9/Sports Society

SKIING TRAGEDIES HAS THE SPORT'S SAFETY UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

          In the wake of the skiing-related deaths of Michael
     Kennedy and Sonny Bono, the national media have examined the
     safety of the sport and possible future safety guidelines. 
          SAFETY IN NUMBERS: The National Safety Council says
     that since '84, skiers "have made 52.25 million visits to
     the slopes annually, and an average of 34 of them have died
     each year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/7).  Those numbers indicate that
     skiing is "about 20 times safer than bicycling ... and many
     times safer than any water sport, save the backyard pool"
     (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8).  In N.Y., James Brooke noted there has
     been "less than one death for every million ski-lift tickets
     sold in the last decade" in the U.S. (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).
          ARE HELMETS THE ANSWER? NEWSDAY's Gregg Sarra wrote
     that industry "insiders believe skiing will join football,
     hockey, bicycling, and mountain biking as a sport that
     mandates the use of a helmet" (NEWSDAY, 1/8). According to
     Ortega & Nelson of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, at ski shops in
     Colorado and Utah "sales and rentals of helmets climbed
     sharply in recent days."  However, the helmets, which sell
     for $30-$160, "provide only limited protection to skiers
     flying down a hill" at speeds of 30-40 mph (WALL STREET
     JOURNAL, 1/7).  In Oregon, Katy Muldoon wrote that with head
     injuries involved in 2.6% of ski accidents, "[e]ven those
     who treat skiing injuries don't agree whether it's
     reasonable to ask recreational skiers to wear helmets"
     (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/7).  An S.F. CHRONICLE editorial
     stated, "There are dangers on the ski slopes. ... No helmet
     law can erase those dangers" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/8).
          HELMETS ARE HOT: On CNBC, Garrett Glaser reported that
     the accidents "might have given concern about safety on the
     slopes a jolt, but in the last year, the protective helmet
     industry had already grown about 20%, from about 66,000 in
     sales in 96, to over 80,000 in 97."  Kim Gibbons, Asst.
     Manager of NJ-based The Ski Barn: "Guys snowboarding have
     helmets on.  It's a cool thing now, it's not a nerdy thing." 
     Steven Hollander, VP/Marketing for helmet manufacturer
     Briko, whose sales are up 25% from '96, said helmets provide
     advertising opportunities: "Helmets have fantastic graphic
     capabilities and it allowed the Briko company a way of
     advertising" ("Business Center," 1/7).  In AZ, Dawn
     Gilbertson wrote that Bell Sports Corp., a bike helmet
     company which "is rolling out a new ski helmet and has
     another line in the works," has seen its stock rise 20% this
     week, and analysts say the accidents are the "only
     attributable factor in the spike" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/8).
          
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