Ever cracked an egg onto a hot skillet or into a batch of brownies? Then you know just how fragile and sensitive the egg shell can be. Miraculously it provides a protective barrier hard enough to protect the egg inside, but soft enough to crack with a quick blow. This is very similar to our head because one quick blow to an unprotected head can cause serious damage in children and adults. Trauma to the unprotected head in a bike accident can be enough to cause a TBI, or concussion.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, “traumatic brain injury, TBI, can be defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the extent of damage to the brain. Mild cases (mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI) may result in a brief change in mental state or consciousness, while severe cases may result in extended periods of unconsciousness, coma or even death.”
May is Bike Safety Awareness month and this marks the beginning of bike riding season in Vermont. It’s a time to make sure the rider still fits their bike, that the chain isn’t lose or rusty, that all moving parts are lubricated, brakes work and helmet isn’t damaged, old or outgrown. Helmets should be replaced every five years because the interior Styrofoam deteriorates and provides less protection. It is also important to check a child’s helmet each year for proper fit as the head grows. If a parent straps a helmet on the head of a young rider as they start cycling, wearing a helmet will become second nature. The cost and heartache associated with an avoidable head injury or TBI can be life changing for the victim, the family and also friends.
In Vermont during 2015, 69% of all high school students rode a bike and 91% of middle schoolers hopped on one. In middle school, 34% of students who ride bikes rarely or never wore a helmet according to the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey. As these middle schoolers get older they wear helmets less frequently so by the time they reach high school, 53% are rarely or never wearing a helmet. Boys are more likely not to put a helmet on before riding.
Could it be that wearing a bike helmet is uncool, uncomfortable or inconvenient? When a student tries out for a team sport such as football, baseball, hockey, skiing, wrestling and even water polo they are not able to do so unless they don the appropriate protective headgear. In fact, this headgear could even be considered a badge of honor as well as protective. “There are few, if any, more important pieces of safety equipment than the helmet,” according to Ian M. Dinzeo, Coordinator of Athletics & Student Activities at North Country Union High School in Newport, Vermont. He goes on to say that all helmets are now certified through their specific national sports councils and this requirement ensures safety of the student participating in any sport.
Helmets are just as important as pedals, handlebars and chains when it comes to bike riding. Whether it’s a slow ride on the bike path or a fast-paced road ride, no cyclists should consider hopping on their bike until their helmet is strapped to their head. May is Bike Safety Awareness Month. Do you know where your helmet is?