The Importance of Safety Equipment Helmets

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Importance of Safety Equipment Helmets

We all know what measures we should take to ensure personal safety – wear seatbelts, wear life vests, wear a helmet, “use in a well-ventilated area”, wear protective eyewear, wear gloves when handling, etc. Yet how many times do we do exactly what we should? Are you a stickler for the rules? Do you follow safety guidelines only when they’re convenient?  Do you throw caution to the wind and roll the dice with fate? We all have our reasons and excuses to justify our behavior, but these warnings, recommendations, and sometimes laws, are in place for a reason, and that reason is to keep us safe.

Wearing a helmet, whether on a bike, an off-road vehicle or on a motorcycle, is one safety measure that should not be ignored. We all think an accident won’t happen to us, but the truth is, it can happen, and to many, it does.  All it takes is one accident to change (or end) your life.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur as a result of an impact, which causes a quick turn or sudden stop. Even seemingly mild head injuries where you don’t lose consciousness can cause permanent behavioral and cognitive problems such as memory loss, inability to concentrate, sleep disorders, and, in some cases, permanent disability or death.   Every year approximately 1.7 million people in the United States are hospitalized or die as a result of a traumatic brain injury.[1]

Studies have shown that wearing a helmet can reduce your risk of a serious brain injury and death. During a fall or collision, most of the impact is absorbed by the helmet rather than your head and brain.   A review of five case studies showed that helmets reduce injury by 63-88% for head, brain, and severe brain injury among cyclists of all ages.[2]  For motorcyclists, a recent analysis from the Crash Outcomes Data Evaluation Systems demonstrated helmets were 35 percent effective in preventing death and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. In other words, those not wearing a helmet are three times as likely to suffer a brain injury compared to those wearing their helmet.[3]

Protective headgear and helmets decrease the potential for severe TBI by reducing the acceleration of the head upon impact.[4] The energy absorbing material within a helmet accomplishes this by absorbing force during the collision and slowly restoring to its original shape. This compression and restoration has the effect of reducing the total momentum transferred to the head.[5]

Just as important as wearing a helmet is wearing the right helmet. A helmet that doesn’t fit properly can give you a false sense of security. When selecting a helmet remember the following:

All helmets are not created equal.

There are many different helmets for different activities and each type of helmet is designed differently. While I can appreciate the fact that you are trying, please don’t wear a bicycle helmet to play football or a football helmet when riding your Harley.  If you are involved in multiple activities that require helmets, make sure you have a properly fitting, appropriate helmet for each. A carpenter doesn’t use only one tool for every situation, and neither should you when it comes to you and your loved one’s safety.

Make sure it fits

In order to receive the full benefit a helmet must fit correctly.  It is perfectly logical to buy kids clothes a bit larger so they can grow into them; however, it is best not to do that with helmets.  If a helmet is too loose then your child will not receive the compressive and restorative effect described above.

A properly sized helmet should:

  1. Fit without a lot of adjustments
  2. Feel comfortable but snug
  3. Sit squarely on your head, not be off to any side
  4. Not move in any direction, back to front or side to side

Kids are especially important

It can be challenging to get your kids to wear a helmet.  It is up to parents to enforce the rules.  Safety is not an area where you should compromise.  Either they wear a helmet or they don’t ride.  Leading by example by always wearing your helmet is a good way to let them know how serious you are about it.

When it comes to newborns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under one should not be on bicycles at all.[6]  Babies don’t have the needed back and neck muscle strength and control to support themselves while on a bicycle.  So even if you are able to find a baby sized helmet, just hold off until you child is a bit older.

Helmets don’t last forever

Bicycle helmets are designed to protect against one severe impact, such as a fall onto the pavement or crash with a car or other object. The material in the helmet will crumple and crush as described above.  Once compromised it will not return to its full form.  While the foam or other material may look fine, you should replace it.

Some helmets are designed to protect against multiple impacts, such as sports helmets. However, you may still have to replace these helmets after one severe impact.  More often they are designed for small to moderate impact.

So make sure to take the extra step and be safe.  As you can see from the above, helmets very much save and protect lives.  Safety is never an area where you want to take a short cut.  Unfortunately, even with all safety protection in place, accidents and injuries still happen every day.  If you or a loved one has been injured, we are here to help you try and restore your life.  Give us a call for a free consultation.

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