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The Hottest Accessory of the Summer: Helmets

bike safety, bike helmets, summer bike riding

Helmets. They are the best line of defense for our precious brains. No matter your age, you can experience an accident. Whether you choose to bike, skateboard, rollerblade, or scooter, putting on a helmet is a good idea that might just save your life.

Who Should Wear a Helmet and Why

Even if it is a casual bike ride on a safe street, wearing a helmet will protect you from the freak accidents that do occur. Helmets are not just for kids. No matter your age or skill level, falling and hitting your head is possible. Take a look at the professionals. They are either required to wear helmets or choose to because they know the dangers of head injury. Unfortunately, children 5 to 14 years old have the highest injury rate of all bicycle riders, and bike accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children.

A helmet will help prevent minor bumps and scrapes from a fall to possible brain injury and skull fractures. Research has found that bike helmets reduce the risk of a serious head or brain injury by an astounding 85%! Between a nasty scar and long recovery time or a bulky helmet, a helmet should be the obvious choice. The Center for Disease Control has stated that “While there is no concussion-proof helmet, a bike helmet can protect your child or teen from a serious brain or head injury.”

Important: Helmet Type and Fit

The best way to find a proper fitting and appropriate helmet are by going to a store and trying it on. The helmet should fit snugly all around without any spaces between the foam and the wearers head. It should be snug, but not so tight that it causes headaches. The helmet should also be level on the top of your head, not tilting in any direction. The chinstrap should make a “V” shape under, and slightly in front of the wearer's ears.

Make sure to store your helmets in a place that is not too hot or too cold, and out of direct sunlight so as to avoid any damage or weakening of the protective materials. It is important to see if the helmet is a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Certified (CPSC) helmet. This ensures that it has passed safety testing and meets the federal safety standard.

It is also important to inspect your helmet before use. Look for any dents, cracks or missing foam as this will affect the helmet's ability to protect you. Replace a helmet if it has become too small for yourself or loved one, or after it has been damaged as the result of an impact. The foam in helmets is designed to crush in order to take the impact of a crash. Bicycle helmets must be replaced after one impact. Skateboard style helmets are designed to withstand more that one minor hit, but must be replaced after a serious crash. Although the helmet might look acceptable, the foam is no longer in optimal condition to protect your head and brain. It should also be noted that using the appropriate type of helmet for the specific activity you are participating in will provide the most protection.

Encouraging Others to Wear a Helmet

Science back safety findings and state laws require those 18 years and under to wear a helmet for bicycle riding, even though they may choose not to. If you or a child you care for is more likely to wear a helmet because of the way it looks, it may be worth spending the extra money. Helmets are also very customizable. Ranging in all colors and many great patterns, this protective piece can also be a fashion statement. Plus, you can decorate them with your favorite stickers if the helmet manufacturer has stated that this will not affect the safety of the helmet. By wearing a helmet as an adult, you are not only protecting yourself but serving as a role model for children to take brain health seriously.

Safety first is the motto to live by when it comes to brain health and protection. Before you go out for your next fun adventure, double-check that your helmet is in good condition and fits properly. Check out Seattle Children's resource for more detailed information about proper fit and helmet choice.

Learn more about safe summer fun and wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written by: Steve Oram, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern



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