Check Your Bike Helmet | by Dr. Hilary Hart
With the weather getting warmer and more people getting out on bikes, scooters, and skateboards, I’ve seen a many people of all ages not wearing helmets around the city. So I want to remind you to wear your helmet! Growing up, I remember helmets always having the stigma of being “uncool” – they mess up your hair, clash with an outfit, they’re uncomfortable, I’m not going very far from home so why do I need to wear it? My parents always had us wearing them whether we were biking, skiing, or doing other activities with a risk of head injury. With a history of head injuries and an affinity for high risk sports, I appreciate helmets so much more.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons wearing a helmet reduces the risk of serious head and brain injury by 85%. When you are wearing a helmet during a fall or crash, the force of impact is distributed over the surface of the helmet, rather than concentrated on the head, protecting that precious brain! An important thing to note is that some helmets, like bike helmets, are designed to withstand only a single impact; others, such as football and hockey helmets, are designed to withstand multiple impacts. However, after a significant impact these helmets should be replaced, especially if there is visible exterior damage. Most helmets should be replaced every 5-10 years, or as soon as 3 years if you are using it regularly.
Children 5 to 14 years of age have the highest injury rate of all bicycle riders, and bike accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children. A child is much more likely to wear a helmet if they like it, so let your kids pick their own! Remember to teach by example – adults should always wear helmets when doing activities that have potential for collision.
Think of a helmet as an investment, when choosing one you need one with the right size and fit. A helmet should be:
- Snug – it does not slide around from front-to-back or side-to-side.
- Level – it is square on the top of your head, it should cover the top of the forehead while not tilting in any direction.
- Stable – a chinstrap keeps a helmet from rocking and from flying off in the case of an accident. Remember to replace this if any piece of the buckle is damaged.]
A helmet for a child should fit them now, and not be something that they grow into. Remember to replace your child’s helmet if it becomes too small. Helmets come in a variety of colours so if you’re riding on the road, purchase a helmet that motorists are able to see.
It is important to note that helmets are sport specific! Don’t wear a ski helmet biking and vice versa. Each type of helmet is designed to protect you for the impacts typically associated with that particular activity or sport. Also remember that a helmet is only part of the solution, watch your speed in heavily trafficked areas, obey all signage, and be mindful of your surroundings! This goes both ways, if you’re walking, driving, or using areas where cyclists are – be aware and help keep everyone safe!