Bicycle Helmet Safety Tips

We recently wrote about a tough Indiana high school senior who survived a traumatic brain injury and, because of a helmet, was able to walk with her graduating class. Sure, Courtney Brinckman may have substituted a bulky helmet for a cap and tassel, but the helmet did its job and protected her still healing brain.

Two years ago, cyclist Ryan Lipscomb of Madison, Wisconsin was saved by his bicycle helmet when a truck rolled over his head. "I didn't see it coming, but I sure felt it roll over my head. It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head,” said Lipscomb, in what had to be the understatement of his life.

Helmets are vital in war zones. Back in April, Purple Heart Recipient Staff Sgt. Matthew Harvey of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division talked about how his Kevlar helmet saved his life. The piece of equipment actually channeled a bullet around his head, saving him from what could have been a life-altering head injury.

Brinckman, Lipscomb and Harvey were all saved by helmets in unusual circumstances, but what about every day helmet use when performing routine activities like cycling?

Bicycle helmets have been shown to prevent 85% of cyclists' head injuries. They are legally required in most states, including Georgia.

According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), there are over 700 cyclist deaths in the United States every year. Almost all of those are the result of a collision with a car or other motorized vehicle. Many more cyclists – men, women, and children – suffer serious injuries.

Here are a few tips about bicycle helmet safety courtesy of the BHSI:

• Have your child professionally fitted for a helmet. A good fit can mean the difference between a wounded head and merely wounded pride.

• Don’t worry about cost. Your child is worth it and discount helmets protect just as well as higher end helmets if correctly fitted. Be sure any helmet you buy has a sticker inside stating that it met the US Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.

• While all children (and adults, too) need to wear helmets, a toddler’s neck may not be strong enough to support the weight of a helmet. Never ride with a child less than one year old and, if in doubt about an older toddler, consult your pediatrician before taking a ride.

• Some children, especially around the 7th grade, resist wearing bicycle helmets because they think it makes them look “geeky” or out of place among less safe friends. Think of the alternative and enforce the rules.

• Always replace the helmet every time a child crashes. Though the damage may not be readily visible, helmets are less protective after a crash and continuing to wear a helmet that has protected your child’s head in an accident once could result in injury later down the road.

• Children suffering from head injuries as the result of a bicycle accident can have permanent personality changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulty learning, aggressiveness, headaches and balance problems.