Winter activities can be fun but also dangerous. The arrival of winter is usually followed by an increase in emergency department visits by young people with head injuries from various winter sports.

Helmets are crucial in protecting people from head injuries, and with so many options available which helmets offer the most protection? Hockey helmets.

Researchers studied the safety performance of a variety of helmets and found that ice hockey helmets offered most protection for lower-velocity impacts and the bicycle helmet was the most protective for high-velocity impacts. Alpine helmets used for skiing and rock-climbing offered limited protection for both low and high velocity impacts, researchers said in a statement on Friday.

Researchers noted that there are currently no certified recreational helmets available so parents just use whatever is available or sometimes nothing at all which can be very dangerous.

"In activities such as tobogganing or skiing, children are able to attain very high velocities," explained Dr. Michael Vassilyadi, Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery and co-author of this study. "This creates a disproportionate amount of risk considering their underdeveloped skills necessary to protect themselves during unexpected events, such as falling or running into objects or other people."

Vassilyadi said that parents must be vigilant and educated their children about ways to be safe and have fun outdoors, and choose their children’s helmets depending on the type of activity.

"This research study does not take a stand about the 'best' helmet," said Vassilyadi. "A hockey helmet is likely the best for younger children when tobogganing as presented in this study. I think this is a great outcome because hockey helmets offer multi-impact protection by design; they can be worn with a toque; and a facial shield or cage can be easily added. The bottom line is that all helmets are protective – and young children should be wearing helmets during winter activities."

The study was published on Friday in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.