|Don't be hard-headed - wear a helmet
Now that we are finally having long summer days, I have noticed that there are a lot of kids in our community who are not wearing helmets when cycling, inline skating, or skateboarding. I admit that when I was growing up, helmets were not “cool” to wear. Since I got into physiotherapy, I realized that wearing a helmet is a lot cooler than the challenges a child and his or her family may face as a result of a head injury.
Brain injuries can affect the way you move, think, behave and function with daily activities. According to the Sports Medicine Council of Manitoba, more than one million children sustain mild to severe brain injuries each year. Essentially, a fall from only two feet is enough to cause permanent brain damage. A human skull can be shattered by an impact at 7-10 kilometres per hour but with a helmet, it minimizes the force of impact on the head and brain. When children wear a helmet they are 14 times more likely to survive a crash. The risk of experiencing a head or brain injury also reduces by 85-88%.
Choosing the right helmet
It is important to try on several different helmets to find one that best suits your head shape. The helmet should sit straight and low on your forehead or about two fingers width above your eyebrows. The side straps should make the shape of a “V” and meet just below your ears. The chinstrap should be snug around the jaw but allow you to open your mouth fully. The helmet should feel comfortable and not rock back and forth when pushed. Many helmets come with additional pads to ensure a snug feel or can later be removed to allow for more room as your child grows. When purchasing a helmet, make sure that it has a SNELL, CSA, or ASTM sticker, which means that it is certified and has been tested for safety.
Keep in mind that any significant impact on the helmet can weaken its protection. Be sure to check your helmet regularly for any dents, scratches or cracks and replace the helmet or straps if it has become damaged or worn out. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for specific guidelines or maintenance.
Children are more likely to wear a helmet if they have good role models, such as parents who also wear them. Make it a habit early when they are first learning to ride or even when they are still on tricycles. Let them help pick out the right helmet so that they will take greater pride in wearing it. Peer pressure is always a factor; so encourage their friends in the neighbourhood to wear one too. Next time they are watching a sporting event, point out that many professional athletes wear helmets to protect themselves.
Accidents can happen anywhere, whether you are just riding down the sidewalk or on a bike trail with your kids. Be sure to teach your children about bike safety before they go on their own, so that they can enjoy this fun and healthy activity safely.
For more information on helmet safety visit the online sources below:
Sport Medicine Council of Manitoba, www.sportmed.mb.ca
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, www.bhsi.org
Adrian Salonga is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor’s degree of Medical Rehabilitation in Physical Therapy. Please send your questions regarding mobility, health promotion, or injury prevention to firstname.lastname@example.org.