“Oh you’re that over-protective parent.” Ok, maybe they don’t always say it, but when I bring up the importance of bike helmets the look on their face says it loud and clear. I’m a child of the 80s and my generation and those before wear it like a badge of honor that we rode in the back of pickup trucks, jumped our big wheels off ramps, and never ever wore a helmet and we survived. Don’t get me wrong I have fond memories of growing up riding my bike and jumping it off curbs. I even have a couple of scars to go with those memories, but for many kids these same activities ended sadly with death or lifelong injury from a traumatic brain injury(TBI). In fact, in 1980 bicycle related TBI death was 20% higher (86% higher is you look at only 20 year old and younger) than it is today. The biggest reason for the decline is increased helmet use. Still, only 1 in 4 riders wear a helmet making it no surprise that TBI still accounts for 70% of bicycle fatalities and half of all bike-related hospitalizations. Recent concussion research has shown that even the smallest TBI can have lifelong consequences including changes to thinking, sensation, language, and emotions. That’s a lot of numbers, some of which are pretty scary, more so because every number represents real children and families just like ours. Let me give you one more thought that offers a lot of hope.
When worn correctly, bike helmets are 88% effective at mitigating a brain injury!
So what can you do as a parent to keep your kid’s brain safe?
Get them a Helmet. It doesn’t have to be expensive. At Billings Clinic you can get one for as low as $8! As long as it has a sticker inside that says CPSC certified or ASTM F1447, it has been tested and certified as a bike helmet in the United States.
Make sure it fits. It should fit nice and level on the head between 1 and 2 finger widths above the eyebrows. Adjust the slider on both straps to just below and in front of the ears. Then snug up the chin strap. When buckled, it should be tight enough that when you yawn the helmet should pull down on your head.
Make sure they wear it. Let them pick the color or stickers to put on it, so the helmet is something they want. You need to wear one too. Research shows that kids keep wearing helmets when they see it role modeled by an adult they look up to.
Know when to get a new one. If the foam of the helmet is starting to crack, if it no longer fits, or if it’s been in a wreck it’s time to get a new one. There can be damage to the interior of the foam that you can’t see that decrease its ability to protect the wearer. Always remember: 1 crash and it’s trash.
Hopefully we can all make our kids’ generation safer than we were. Any question regarding helmets? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.