Protect Your Noggin—Wear a Helmet
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. Psalm 3:3
It’s officially summer! That means that we are all outside participating in a variety of activities that we are only able to enjoy in Minnesota for a few short months. I haven’t always been a strong proponent of wearing helmets while participating in activities like bicycle riding, rollerblading, or skateboarding. I like that wind-through-the-hair feeling as much as anyone. I felt like wearing a helmet made me sweat and made my hair looked like a matted mess when I took the helmet off. Many years ago a friend encountered a crack in the road while riding a bike and his tire caught in the crack and he went flying over his handlebars. He hit his head and dislocated his shoulder. I believe that the helmet saved his life. Ever since then, I do not ride my bike without a helmet—even if my hair looks terrible when I take the helmet off.
Incidents of the past two years have reinforced to me how important it is to wear a helmet. When you see someone’s head actually hit the pavement while wearing their helmet, it helps you understand how this simple safety precaution can be lifesaving. Helmets are the single most effective piece of safety equipment for riders of all ages, if you crash. Everyone should choose to wear a helmet.
Bike helmets, and most helmets, have a thin coating on the outside of polycarbonate plastic and thick dense foam on the inside. I was surprised to learn of the many activities for which helmets may reduce the risk of head injury. These range from the common (bicycling, in-line skating, skateboarding, ATV riding) to the obscure (spelunking, bull riding, polo).
Here are some interesting statements about helmets from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
During a typical fall or collision, much of the impact energy is absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head and brain.
No helmet design has been proven to prevent concussions.
There are different helmets for different activities. Each type of helmet is made to protect your head from the kind of impacts that typically are associated with a particular activity or sport.
All bicycle helmets manufactured after 1999 must meet the U.S. CPSC bicycle helmet standard; helmets meeting this standard provide protection against skull fractures and severe brain injuries when the helmet is used properly.
Don’t choose style over safety. Avoid helmets that contain nonessential elements that protrude from the helmet (e.g., horns, Mohawks)—they may prevent the helmet’s smooth surface from sliding after a fall, which could lead to injury. Stickers, coverings, or other attachments that are added to the helmet can negatively affect the helmet’s performance.
Bicycle helmets are designed to protect against the impact from just a single fall, such as a bicyclist’s fall onto the pavement. The foam material in the helmet will crush to absorb the impact energy during a fall or collision. Even if there are no visible signs of damage to the helmet, you must replace it after such an event.
It is advised to replace your helmet within 5–10 years of purchase, a decision that can be based, at least in part, on how much the helmet was used, how it was cared for, and where it was stored. Cracks in the shell or liner, a loose shell, marks on the liner, fading of the shell, evidence of crushed foam in the liner, worn straps, and missing pads or other parts, are all reasons to replace a helmet.
It is not only important to wear a helmet, but to wear it correctly. I have seen many bicyclists wearing helmets incorrectly and have had to hold my tongue to not scold them. Helmets are not hats! They must be level on your head, one or two finger widths above your eyebrows, and strapped on securely to be protective in a crash.
(From Contra Costa, California County Health Services)
Make sure your helmet is not on backwards—there is a front and back to the helmet. Yes—people do put their helmets on backwards! While holding it level, with the straps pointed towards the ground, check which end has a higher rise. This is designed to accommodate your face so you can actually see where you’re going. This is the front of the helmet.
My advice to you—stay safe and WEAR A HELMET! You will know that I am wearing mine. I will be the one with the sweaty, messy hair after the bike ride.
Join the Bethel bikers on Tuesdays, 6:30 – 7:30 pm, through August 20.
Check the bulletin the Sunday before the ride for our starting location. And, yes, you must wear a helmet.