Keep Your Head in a Tornado

Over more than three days in late April, the South, the Midwest and the Northeast saw the largest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded in the U.S. – 359 tornadoes cut a swath of destruction, killing 362 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. Dubbed the “Super Outbreak of 2011,” the string of violent storms was its most destructive in Alabama. Despite its location south of Tornado Alley (the Great Plains states between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians), Alabama is a frequent host to tornadoes and experienced the largest loss of life last April. During the Super Outbreak, 247 Alabamians died, with 21 deaths in the state’s most populous county, Jefferson County.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have pinpointed head and neck injuries as the leading mechanism of tornado-involved deaths and they have identified a simple, low-cost solution: helmets. Dr. Russ Fine, founding director of the UAB Injury Control Research Center, says that any helmet designed to protect the head will work — a football helmet, a bicycle helmet, or a construction hard hat — to minimize the damage from high velocity impacts.

“This is as obvious as the nose on one’s face,” Fine said. “It doesn’t require 50 studies and millions of research dollars. This is an effective, practical, sensible intervention that will save lives and reduce injuries.” Continue reading