Health Matters: Bicycle helmet safety
As the days become longer and winter jackets are traded in for sweaters, kids and parents alike are taking their bikes off the hooks and filling up the tires. Before hitting the road, don't forget the most important piece of equipment: your helmet.
More children between the ages of 5 and 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent, yet only 45 percent of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet. Helmet use is the most effective way to reduce bicycle related fatalities.
Bike helmets are so important that the U.S. Government has created safety standards for them. A proper helmet should have a sticker that says it meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
As a parent, the best way to ensure that your child wears a helmet when biking is to wear a helmet yourself. In addition to modeling safe behavior, ensure your child's helmet is properly fitted and explain each step to your child so that he or she can learn how to do it each and every ride: Place the helmet low on the forehead, just above the eyebrows; the helmet straps should be snug under the chin so the helmet stays in the same position; the helmet should not move back and forth or side to side; and don't wear a helmet on the back of the head (with the forehead exposed), as this will not do a good job of protecting the brain.
Helmets are not the only safety item that can be used to avoid injury. Here are some additional reminders: Follow all traffic laws and ride only in designated areas; avoid listening to music or texting while riding a bike, skateboarding or rollerblading; wear other appropriate protective gear including knee pads, elbow pads, mouth guards and wrist guards; wear properly fitted shoes. Remember to tie shoelaces and don't wear open-toed shoes; and follow the rules of the road established in your community.
Safety helmets can, and should, also be worn when in-line skating or roller skating, and bike helmets offer good protection for these activities Skateboarders or skaters who perform tricks should look for helmets specifically designed for these activities and that meet safety standards for these sports. These types of helmets cover more of the head, especially the back of the head.
Helmets are now more fashionable and high tech, they come in a rainbow of colors and styles to meet everyone taste. Grab a couple different colors/styles to coordinate with your outfits.
Overtime helmets degrade and should be replaced every three to five years. If you have been in a crash, you need a new helmet, even if you are emotionally attached to the one that saved your life.
It's time to protect your noggin!
Brian Patno is a Medical Assistant with Just So Pediatrics, a department of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and the founder of Safe Kids Windham County. Bike helmets are available for sale at a reduced price by calling Just So Pediatrics at 802-251-8626 or stopping by the office located on the 1st Floor of the BMH Medical Office Building (19 Belmont Ave, Brattleboro).
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