Bike Helmets Make a Head-full of Sense
The recent trend among states to make bicycle helmets mandatory is the result of a major medical study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that helmets can prevent 88% of all brain injuries incurred while bicycling and help saves the lives of more than 800 cyclists killed in the United States each year.
Three quarters of the 800 annual deaths from cycling occur because of brain injuries. Many thousands more cyclists suffer less severe but still debilitating injuries—including permanent personality changes and learning disabilities—as a result of head injuries. Long-term effects include concentration difficulties, aggressiveness, headaches, and balance problems, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
All cyclists, young and old, should wear helmets. Many children will wear helmets if their parents wear them, their school teachers promote them, and they get to personally select the helmet the want. Many other more reluctant children can be made to wear a helmet if their parents persist. Don’t give up!
Fit is very important for safety, and a good bike shop will provide this help. You won’t need to buy a new helmet every year, since most come with a variety of foam pads that be inserted and changed as needed. Helmets should sit level on the child’s head and fit securely with the strap fastened.
All helmets made for sale in the U.S. must meet the ANSI, ASTM or Snell standard. Those made after March 1999 must meet the slightly tougher Consumer Product Safety Commission standard. Fit is not tested by the standards, so try the helmet on your child’s own head. Finally, remember that helmets only work in one location: on the head.
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