Skip to main content

Why you need a great skiing or snowboarding helmet: Scientists say your brain can’t heal itself

Have we been wrong all these years?

Ski helmet on the ground
Saipr / Pixabay

Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding gentle groomers or backcountry in the heart of Canada, using a helmet is a no-brainer (pun intended).

But this month, researchers Tamar R. Makin and John W. Krakauer from the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit of the University of Cambridge and Johns Hopkins University School of Medine published a study that seriously questions our understanding of our brain health and its elasticity.

“The idea that our brain has an amazing ability to rewire and reorganize itself is an appealing one. It gives us hope and fascination, especially when we hear extraordinary stories,” says Krakauer from Johns Hopkins University.

But as Krakauer and Makin explain in their study, this reassuring notion falls short of what is really happening in your brain.

“This idea goes beyond simple adaptation or plasticity – it implies a wholesale repurposing of brain regions. But while these stories may well be true, the explanation of what is happening is, in fact, wrong.”

Illustration of brain neurons

What did they find?

In their study, Krakauer and Makin reviewed keystone studies that led to the idea that the brain can utilize different parts of the cortex to rewire and reorganize itself. To guide their review, they set out qualitative criteria to determine if there were signs of brain reorganization:

We conclude that none of the canonical studies we reviewed convincingly fulfill these criteria. As such, we did not find good evidence for the existence of functional pluripotency for [the] cortex in any period of development; instead, the assignment of brain function to a given cortical structure is likely to be largely fixed at birth. Cochlear implants for congenital deafness, sight restoration for congenital blindness, and peripheral or central sensory stimulation in amputees/deafferented patients all point to functional preservation of native processing in cortical territories long deprived of their natural inputs; they have not been ‘taken over’ by an alternative function (Krakauer, Makin, 2023, eLife, 1 December 2023,

Simply put, if someone is born deaf, the brain doesn’t repurpose a different part of the cortex to make the connection and restore the function – the core function was already there. The brain seems to keep its original functions even after a lack of natural input.

So, what does this mean for brain injuries?

The implication of this finding drastically shifts our understanding of how the brain recovers from brain injuries.

Mainly, if we injure a part of the cortex responsible for a function like motor skills, the presumed idea that our cortex is flexible and able to repurpose part of the cortex to bridge the gap is now a bit hazier than it first appeared.

With this new finding, the importance of brain protection is more important now than ever before. Make sure to keep you and your brain safe with quality helmets.

Don’t depend on your ability alone to keep you out of harm’s way.

Helmets save lives.

Editors' Recommendations

Louis Cinquanto
Writing for all of the adventurers out there! Ski the East! #getoutside
Have your Ikon Pass or Epic Pass already? Now you need the Mountain Collective pass – here’s why
Perfect for travelers, especially if you go overseas
Snowboarder jumping through the air

You've heard of the Epic and Ikon passes, but have you heard about the Mountain Collective pass? Well, it's time to freshen up.

Created in 2012 to help independent mountains compete against Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, this lesser-known ski pass includes blackout-less access to a number of independent mountains across the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.

Read more
The loop on the ring finger of your ski gloves is actually really useful
It's not just there for decoration
A man standing on the mountain wearing ski gloves.

It's time to dust off your snow gear! Amid all the excitement, however, it's easy to overlook some of the more fascinating design work that went into your snow gloves. For example, if you pay attention to your ski gloves, you may realize that there is a little loop on the ring finger of each glove. This is a clever design element that offers several practical benefits, whether you're skiing or snowboarding. Here's how to use them.
Here's how to use the loops
Hang your gloves to dry
One of the most immediate and useful applications of the loop on your ski glove's ring finger is its role in drying your gloves. After an exhilarating day on the slopes, your gloves can become damp from snow and sweat. The key to maintaining comfort and warmth for your next run is ensuring your gloves dry thoroughly. Here's where the loop comes into play.

To expedite the drying process, you can use the loop to hang your gloves with the fingers pointing upward. This method is more effective at drying your gloves compared to laying them flat, as it allows air to circulate freely inside the gloves, which helps moisture evaporate more rapidly. Drying with your gloves fingers up prevents them from becoming musty and keeps them fresh for your next snow adventure. By using the loop for this purpose, you'll be ready to hit the slopes with dry, comfortable gloves in no time.
Easy carrying
The loop on the ring finger of your ski gloves can also serve as a convenient means of carrying your gloves when you're not wearing them. You can attach a carabiner to the loops, allowing you to hook your gloves onto your ski or snowboard jacket, backpack, or belt. This can be particularly handy when you're transitioning between skiing and other activities or when you're in a cozy ski lodge, giving your gloves a designated place to hang without the risk of misplacing them.

Read more
How snowboarding through trees and in powder can help improve your skillset
Snowboarding through trees is a totally different (yet still amazing) experience
Sunny snowboarding in the Stowe Trees

Stowe Mountain Resort Mark Reif

When I moved to Vermont in October 2021, I couldn’t wait to snowboard at Stowe Mountain Resort. Set amongst the state’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, the storied resort offered abundant freeride terrain and a unique local culture. 

Read more