Release Date: 7/15/2011
Bicycle helmets help prevent serious head injuries
Dr. Dana Galbraith, a Family Medicine specialist, with St. Anthony's Family Health Partners. Call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 for a physician referral.
You wouldn’t allow your children to ride in a car without seatbelts. You wouldn’t send them on a float trip without life jackets. And you certainly wouldn’t let them play hockey without protective gear. So why would you even consider allowing your kids to ride their bicycles without helmets?
Each year, about 800 bicyclists nationwide are killed and more than 500,000 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. Nearly two-thirds of the deaths and one-third of the injuries involve the head and face. For children under the age of 10, nearly half of the injuries involve the head and face.
A bicycle helmet that fits properly and that meets the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission can be 85 percent effective in preventing head and brain injuries; yet only about half of cyclists wear helmets.
So, how do you get your children to wear helmets whenever they are riding their bikes – even when mom and dad aren’t watching?
- Start early. Even toddlers on tricycles can benefit from wearing helmets. Preschoolers wearing helmets are less likely to sustain head injuries from a spill on the sidewalk and are more likely to adopt the lifelong habit of donning a helmet before straddling a bike.
- Make it cool. Let your child select his or her own helmet, as long as it meets safety standards and fits properly. Children are less likely to resist wearing something they picked out themselves.
- Give them the facts. Explain to your child (in age-appropriate terms) that kids just like them wind up in hospitals every day because they didn’t wear a bicycle helmet. Relate putting on a helmet to buckling up a seatbelt – it just makes sense to be safe.
- Be sure it fits and is worn correctly. Not only is an ill-fitting bicycle helmet uncomfortable, it won’t effectively protect your child from a head injury. A poorly fitting helmet can easily fly off your child’s head upon impact, and a helmet that is worn incorrectly may not protect your child.
- Be sure it’s effective. A helmet that does not meet safety standards may offer your child little-to-no protection from head injury. A bike helmet is not a toy, it’s serious safety gear.
- Be a good role model. Parents also should wear helmets when bicycling to prevent head injury. Your children are more likely to willingly adopt the practice if they see you wearing a helmet whenever you ride a bicycle.
- Because I said so. If all else fails, remember that you are the parent; and, as such, are responsible for your child’s safety and well-being. Make it a rule – no helmet, no bike.
Bicycling is a great sport for people of all ages. It can help improve coordination, increase muscle tone and burn unwanted calories. Biking offers the benefits of aerobic exercise, while providing a perfect excuse to enjoy the great outdoors. Keep the fun, lose the risk – wear a helmet.
Trained staff members from St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s Emergency Department offer free bicycle helmet fittings, for both adults and children, from 4 to 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month, from April through October, in the library of Anthony House, 10016 Kennerly Road, located directly behind the hospital.
Participants receive a free bag of goodies, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pamphlet, “Your Bicycle Helmet, A Correct Fit,” which gives step-by-step instructions to proper helmet fitting. Helmets also are available for purchase for $10. For more information, call 314-525-4069 or visit www.stanthonysmedcenter.com.
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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