Over Memorial Day weekend on a camping trip, I observed that the children in our group were the only ones wearing bike helmets as they rode bikes and scooters around the campground. My good friend Allison Yocum, a pediatric physical therapist and owner of Waypoint Pediatric Therapies, agreed to talk about the importance of wearing helmets while riding.
Why is it so important for kids (and adults) to wear helmets when riding bikes or scooters?
Bottom line: wearing a helmet can save your child’s life. Injuries are the leading cause of death of school age children and most can be prevented. In the health arena, injuries are divided into two categories: accidents and unintentional injuries. Accidents are defined as injuries due to chance while unintentional injuries are those that may have been prevented if safety measures were in place. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children under 18 years old. The American Medical Association provides some very convincing evidence when it comes to the use of bicycle helmets. Children 0-14 years old account for 21% of cyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2003. This does not include the number of children with traumatic brain injury from bicycle accidents. They report that bicycle helmets are 85-88% effective in regards to preventing traumatic brain injuries and fatalities from bicycle crashes.
What are some of the injuries that you can sustain if you don’t wear a helmet?
Helmets protect the brain and help to prevent traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury is caused when the head is hit by something and the brain moves in the skull impacting one or more sides of the skull. Even a very mild traumatic brain injury can be devastating to the developing brain, forever changing how the brain is able to function. Some of the impairments that can be caused by traumatic brain injury are speech, vision, hearing, motor coordination, balance and emotional issues.
Have you worked with kids who have these injuries?
My very first client was a three year old little boy who was riding his tricycle in his culdesac on the sidewalk. The next door neighbor backed out of the driveway and did not see him. He had a severe head injury which affected movement of his entire body. He will be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. This happened to a little boy who was on the sidewalk, on a tricycle, and right next to his home. The message is that all children on wheels should wear a helmet whether it is on a tricycle, bicycle, or scooter and on the sidewalk, the driveway, or the road.
Aren’t there some programs that give helmets to kids who can’t afford them?
I have seen these programs advertised, often at local health and safety fairs. Your local police or fire department may be a good resource for this.
Where can you go to make sure that the helmet fits properly?
The following website from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association provides great written instructions on the fit of bike helmets. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/EasyStepsWeb/
Other than that, look for local resources. Bicycle shops will often advertise helmet fitting days, local child health fairs will often have a bike helmet fitting station, and some fire departments or police departments are happy to provide this service.
Can having an ill-fitting bike lead to potential injuries as well?
In addition to wearing a helmet, a proper fitting bicycle can also prevent injury. Make sure your child’s bicycle fits properly. Your child should be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground when sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebars. Coaster breaks (pedal backward) are recommended for children under five as they often cannot properly use hand brakes at this age.
References and resources:
This was also published on my Girl Power Hour blog, Mommy See.