This is the time of year when many of us will be heading for the slopes on eagerly anticipated winter sports trips.
While the vast majority of these will pass off without incident and prove to be a hugely enjoyable experience, the accident involving Michael Schumacher demonstrated in the most graphic way possible that even experienced skiers can suffer life-altering and even fatal sports-related accidents.
The most important piece of advice for anyone taking part in winter sports is to always wear a helmet.
Every year, thousands of adults and children are treated for head and neck injuries related to winter sports.
As a result, many people are left with permanent health problems, are paralysed, or even lose their lives.
Injuries severe enough to cause head injury or other trauma often also cause neck fracture or spinal cord injury.
Winter sports contribute to a greater number of head injuries than neck injuries, but both head and neck injuries can be devastating.
While severe head injuries can result in a host of disabling cognitive and physical health problems, severe neck injuries or spinal cord injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis.
The most severe of these injuries can tragically end in death.
Many head and neck injuries can be avoided by following these simple safety precautions:
• Buy and use approved helmets or protective head gear for specific sports 100 percent of the time.
• Wear appropriate clothing for the sport.
• Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.
• Do not participate in outdoor sports when weather conditions pose a serious hazard.
• Drive snowmobiles slowly and only on marked trails.
• Ice skate only in areas designated for skating, and be sure to check the ice for cracks and debris
• Use only sleds that can be steered, and never go down a slope head first.
• Follow all posted signs and warnings on ski slopes, sledding hills and ice skating rinks.
Most of these accidents can be prevented by following a few simple safety measures.
Don’t risk your neck for that fleeting moment of fun, because it takes only one moment for a life to change forever.