This Christmas, many boys and girls will wake up to a new bicycle, scooter or skateboard under the tree. Hopefully they will also unwrap a new helmet to go with it.
Did you know that nearly 50 percent of children age 14 and under who are hospitalized for bicycle, in-line skating, and skateboard-related injuries are diagnosed with a brain injury? Many of those injuries could have been prevented through proper use of a helmet. For instance, wearing a helmet when riding a bike can reduce your risk of head injury by 85 percent, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Similar statistics exist for other sports as well.
Not all helmets, however, are created equal. Different sports require use of different types of helmets. Be sure to pick out the correct type of helmet for the activity your child will be engaged in. A knowledgeable salesperson at a sporting goods, bicycle, or skateboarding store can point you in the right direction. (1)
In addition, proper use and adjustment of a helmet is critically important. If the helmet doesn’t fit or is not worn properly, it will offer less protection. A helmet should be comfortable but snug. Also, make sure that the helmet sits level on your child’s head – not tilted too far back or forward. The chin strap should be securely fastened. (2) A properly fitted helmet should not move in any direction when adjusted and fastened properly.
Helmets need to be maintained and kept in good shape as well. Although helmets are designed to take a tough blow, they often need to be replaced if they have been involved in a serious accident. Many skateboard and bicycle shops will inspect helmets for free. When in doubt, replace a helmet that has sustained a serious impact. After all, your child’s head is at stake.
Finally, set a good example for your children. Be sure to wear a helmet when you ride a bike with your children. Let them see that wearing a helmet is “cool.” You will be leading by example and protecting yourself at the same time. Also, be firm when you set the ground rules. No helmet means no riding. And encourage helmet use at a young age. If young children learn to consistently wear a helmet any time that they are “on wheels,” they are more likely to continue the tradition as they get older.
Death and serious injury due to head injury isn’t something that can happen. It does happen. Don’t allow your children to take unnecessary risk with their lives. When they take that new bike, skateboard, or scooter out for its first ride, make sure that they do it in a properly fastened and well fitting helmet. Have a happy and healthy holiday season!
About the Author: Richmond accident attorney Jason Konvicka is experienced in handling personal injury cases involving bicycle accidents and traumatic brain injury.
(1) For additional information on selection, adjustment, use and care of helmets for a variety of sports, see the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute information at http://www.bhsi.org/. (2) In 2005, a professional skateboarder and skateboard instructor, Eric Costello, died while demonstrating a move to a class at a skateboard park. He was skating in a bowl that was 10-12 feet deep. According to news reports, his helmet either did not fit or the chinstrap was not properly tightened, so that the helmet came off during the fall, resulting in massive head injuries that led to his death two days later. See article at http://www.nctimes.com/news/state-and-regional/article_5d154029-993e-5aae-916e-ebb10c84cfa3.html.