Shepherd student recovering after ski accident; Helmet credited with lessening injuries

A Shepherd University student is recovering after what was supposed to be a day off of fun in the sun and snow that ended with an overnight stay at an area trauma center after sustaining injuries in a ski accident.

“We were skiing down the mountain pretty fast when I hit a patch of ice on the slope and lost control,” Jenna Hoffmaster, of Inwood, W.Va., and a junior at Shepherd University, said in an email to The Picket.  “My skis had kicked out from underneath me when I fell back and my head hit twice on the slope.”

In the minutes after the incident Hoffmaster describes not being able to hear her friend talking to her.  As other skiers stopped to check her condition, emergency medical and rescue personnel from Whitetail Ski Resort  arrived to help.

Hoffmaster was packaged and transported off the mountain to be further evaluated by medical staff at the resort’s onsite medical facility.

With Hoffmaster’s history and their physical findings on assessment of her right pupil not reacting to light and her blood pressure being elevated, resort medical staff recommended that a physician evaluate her.

Hoffmaster said that a friend immediately took her to the hospital.

At the hospital a CT scan was performed and showed a right front subdural hematoma according, to Hoffmaster.

“Subdural hemorrhage or contusions are serious life threatening head injuries,” Mindy Barnhart, a registered nurse, certified emergency nurse and trauma nurse at Meritus Medical Center, a trauma center, near Hagerstown, Md. said.

“I was admitted to the critical care unit of the hospital…observed closely and hourly neurological exams completed,” Hoffmaster said.

“The bleeding that occurs (with a subdural hemorrhage) within the brain and can happen very quickly.  The most likely treatment is emergency surgery to relieve the pressure and swelling,” Barnhart said.

“I was wearing a helmet and so thankful that I had made that conscious decision to do so,” Hoffmaster said.  “After skiing for the first time, I would strongly recommend wearing a helmet to anyone who does this sport.”

An in-depth study performed by the National Ski Areas Association reports that 73 percent of all skiers and snowboarders wore helmets during the most recent ski season. This statistic has set another record for helmet use ski areas across the United States, according to the NSAA study.

“Ski areas have done an incredible job of encouraging helmet use…The resorts, parents, local medical groups, even the tremendous improvements by helmet manufacturers to enhance design and comfort- all these factors have helped grow helmet usage,” Michael Berry, National Ski Area Association president said in a press release.

“As hard as I hit my head if I was not wearing a helmet, the bleed could have been much bigger or I could have done damage to my skull,” Hoffmaster said.

Increased helmet use is being proven to reduce all head injuries, especially potentially serious head injuries, according to the NSAA.  A study performed over 17 ski seasons of ski helmet use from 1995 through 2012 concluded that as helmet use increased potentially serious head injuries dropped from 4.2 percent of all injuries to 3 percent.

“Always wear a helmet and try not to ski when icy conditions are known,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart recommends seeking medical help immediately if you have a severe headache, seizures, slurred speech, balance issues, confusion and/or loss of consciousness after a traumatic event.

With the close proximity to Whitetail Ski Resort and Ski Liberty, Meritus Medical Center trauma teams treat many patients wit injuries sustained from ski, snowboarding, tubing and other winter weather related incidents.

“We get many patients with either broken bones, dislocations and concussions,” Barnhart said.

Follow Todd Bowman on Twitter: @todd_bowman87.

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