Water skiing and wakeboarding are popular water sports enjoyed by millions of people. However, both recreational and professional participants are at risk of sustaining injuries.
Participants can sustain injuries by falling in water, colliding with obstacles and equipment, or colliding with other people. To reduce injury risk when colliding with solid/hard objects (i.e. collisions other than falling into water), participants use water sports helmets. However, some argue that these helmets can increase the risk of head and neck injury for falls into the water.
To simulate the effect of water sports helmets during falls into water, Dr. Irving S. Scher and colleagues employed a pendulum system with a Hybrid-III anthropometric testing device (i.e. crash test dummy).
They found that using water sport helmets did not lead to an increase in the likelihood of sustaining head and neck injuries during falls into water. While helmets did increase injury metrics such as head acceleration and cervical spine compression in certain situations, the metrics remained below acceptable injury assessment reference values (IARV).
However, these conclusions are not applicable to all instances of head and neck injuries during water skiing and wakeboarding falls. First, the only anthropometric testing device (test dummy) used was a 50th percentile male anthropometric testing device; because this model does not represent the head and neck characteristics of all individuals, we cannot generalize the test results to all individuals.
Furthermore, the tests were carried out to simulate speeds of recreational wakeboarders and water skiers, not professional athletes. Despite these limitations, this study suggests that the use of water sports helmets in recreational water skiing and wakeboarding do not increase the likelihood of head and neck injury for falls into water.
Images were obtained from the mentioned paper authored by Dr. Irving S. Scher and colleagues (article is open access and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)