TORONTO - A study of helmets used by children for winter activities offers some new data on the various types of head protection that would suit tobogganers.

A team from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and University of Ottawa compared the protective characteristics of three types of helmets that are currently used by children age seven and under.

In a lab setting, helmets for ice hockey, alpine skiing and bicycling were subjected to impacts at two-, four-, six- and eight-metres per second at the front and side impact locations, using a special monorail drop rig.

Impact and surface velocities were chosen to simulate an impact similar to that expected for a child during tobogganing.

The director of the Neurotrauma Impact Laboratory, Dr. Blaine Hoshizaki, says safety performance was defined by the ability of a helmet to reduce acceleration of the head during the impact.

The team found that the ice hockey helmet was the most protective at the lower-velocity impacts, while the bike helmet was the most protective at the high-velocity impact.

The alpine helmets had limited effectiveness at both high- and low-velocity impacts, the researchers said.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Vassilyadi says the study does not take a stand about the "best" helmets.

"A hockey helmet is likely the best for younger children when tobogganing as presented in this study," he said in a release.

"I think this is a great outcome because hockey helmets offer multi-impact protection by design; they can be worn with a tuque; and a facial shield or cage can be easily added."

The bottom line, he added, is that all helmets are protective, and young children should be wearing them during winter activities such as skiing or tobogganing.

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

Earlier this week, the Canadian Paediatric Society put out a statement saying that helmets should be made mandatory for anyone taking to the ski hills.

And the Canadian Institute for Health Information released a report on serious injuries related to winter sports and recreational activities -- noting that in the fiscal year 2010-2011, more than 5,600 Canadians of all ages were hospitalized for at least one night.

Skiing and snowboarding accounted for more than 2,300 admissions, while hockey-related injuries accounted for 1,114 cases.

The data showed 889 ice skating injuries, 1,126 injuries related to snowmobiling and 171 due to tobogganing.