Do ski helmets affect reaction time to peripheral stimuli?

Wilderness Environ Med. 2011 Jun;22(2):148-50. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2010.12.010. Epub 2010 Dec 25.


Background: Ski helmet use has steadily increased worldwide over the last 10 years in part as a result of preventive helmet campaigns but also in part as a result of increased media coverage after fatal injuries involving celebrities. However, a commonly reported reason for nonuse is impaired vision.

Objective: The aim of this pilot study was to investigate whether ski helmet use affects reaction time to peripheral stimuli.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial using the Compensatory-Tracking-Test (CTT) was conducted in a laboratory situation. This test measures reaction time to peripheral stimuli during a tracking task and was carried out by 10 males and 10 females (age: 22.1 ± 2.5 years) during 4 conditions in a randomized order: (A) with a ski cap; (B) with a ski helmet; (C) with a ski cap and ski goggles; and (D) with a ski helmet and ski goggles.

Results: Friedman-tests revealed significant differences in reaction times (ms) between the 4 conditions (p=.031). The lowest mean reaction time (± standard error) was measured for cap only use (477.3 ± 16.6), which was not different than helmet-only use (478.5 ± 19.1, p=0.911). However, reaction time was significantly longer for cap + goggles use (514.1 ± 20.8, p=0.005) and for helmet + goggles use (497.6 ± 17.3, p=0.017) when compared to cap-only use.

Conclusion: Our results showed that ski helmet use did not increase reaction time to peripheral stimuli. This information should be implemented in future preventive campaigns to increase helmet use in skiers and snowboarders.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Eye Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Head Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Skiing / physiology*
  • Students
  • Young Adult