Gary Burch is sporting a broken arm, cracked jaw and bruised head, but feels he got off lightly thanks to his helmet.
Gary was snowboarding on Mt Hutt two weekends ago when his board hit bumpy snow causing him to crash head first into rocks and ice.
Although Gary doesn’t think helmets should be made mandatory he believes his experience shows how vital they are in preventing serious injury.
Originally from England, Gary is an experienced snowboarder clocking up six seasons on the slopes since moving to New Zealand.
Gary was by himself on the mountain when he had his accident.
“I wasn’t exploring a new part of the mountain, I wasn’t trying out any new tricks, I was just riding across the face looking for somewhere safe to drop in, and then I hit a bumpy bit of snow and lost it.”
He was spun sideways picking up a lot of speed.
“I saw a set of rocks and tried to go around but that wasn’t happening, so I knew I was going to hit the rocks, at that point I blacked out,” he said.
After his snowboard accident Gary Burch came around when being loaded on to the snow patrol stretcher heading to the Mt Hutt medical centre.
‘‘The staff were worried because I lost consciousness and had memory loss.’’
Later that day he had full xrays and CT scans at Ashburton Hospital.
Gary had a cracked jaw and a broken ulna bone in his right arm and required an operation at Christchurch Hospital a few days later to have a metal plate screwed to the outside of the bone.
Gary’s helmet took the full force of the blow to his head but he still had a large bruise on his forehead.
He has always used a helmet since day one and credits his helmet for saving him from a life changing head injury or even death.
‘‘You see so many guys skiing and snowboarding without a helmet.
‘‘Some people may not wear a helmet because it’s not cool, but they are comfortable to wear, keep your head and ears warm, it’s not a hassle.
‘‘Without my helmet I don’t know what would have happened.’’
In the past five years ACC has paid out almost $140m for snow sport injury claims.
There were 12,539 snow sport related claims accepted in 2020, of these 437 were concussion/brain injury claims.
The cost of snow sport injuries in 2020 was the highest in the past five years.
ACC injury prevention leader Kirsten Malpas encouraged all Kiwis to share the slopes safely.
“There’s nothing better than a weekend away with your mates or family enjoying perfect conditions on the mountain as a skier or a snowboarder,’’ she says.
“We want everyone to embrace that and enjoy this winter season on the slopes.
‘‘But our claims data shows us that the skiing slopes are a high risk place for injury. We are encouraging anyone who is heading to the mountain to take a moment.
‘‘Have a Hmmm’ to assess if your ability matches the trail grade, and end your day when you start to feel fatigue creeping in.’’
By Daniel Tobin