Monday, July 27, 2009


Bike helmets save lives

There are approximately 70 million bicyclists in the United States. Most of these riders agree that helmets are a good idea, yet only about 35% report wearing one “all or most of the time.”

Consider this: A full 66% of all bicyclists’ deaths are the result of brain injury, and studies estimate up to 88% of these brain injuries may have been prevented by the use of a helmet. Clearly we need to, shall I say, use our heads!

Helmets work by reducing the peak energy at impact through the use of a layer of foam, usually expanded polystyrene foam similar to the old white picnic coolers. They also provide a barrier to protect the soft tissue of the head and face. An important fact to remember is that these foam layers are intended to withstand ONE major crash that usually involves two impacts; helmet-to-car, followed by helmet-to-road. So, not unlike car seats, helmets need to be replaced after a collision.

All helmets sold in the U.S. since 1999 must meet basic safety requirements, so some of the work has already been done for you. The less expensive helmets sold at Wal-Mart must meet the same standards as the high end ones sold at bike shops.

In choosing a helmet, fit is everything. In this area, a specialty shop does help – you are more likely to find assistance in getting the right fit. Here are some basics to remember when fitting a helmet:

A proper fitting helmet should:
* Fit level on the head.
* Touch all the way around – no gaps.
* Be snug, not tight. (Look in a mirror while moving the helmet – the movement should cause the eyebrows to move).
* Have a smooth surface – no fancy wings or visors that can knock the helmet loose in a collision.
* Stay put when tugged on.
* Have a strong strap to hold it in place.

White or bright colors are best for visibility. Ventilation will help you stay cooler, but remember – the more ventilation holes you have, the less energy-absorbing foam.

Skateboard helmets are designed for a different type of impact, so they should not be used for bike riding. Also, because the properly-fitted helmet will be snug, it must be removed when a child is not on the bike; it could become a safety hazard when climbing trees or playground equipment.

One of the most important things to remember when choosing a helmet is to make sure the rider likes it. If someone does not like the look and/or feel of their helmet, it will probably not be worn. Let children pick out their own helmets – choose their favorite color and decorate it with reflective stickers. Make having a bike helmet fun!

Cindy Arpin is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. E-mail Ms. Arpin and all the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?