pediatric physician and an avid cyclist, I tend to notice other people's habits
when it comes to bicycles. Sadly, I have long since ceased to be surprised
when I see students riding around campus without helmets, but I'm still
astonished to see so many others riding with unprotected heads. I hear
odd arguments from people justifying why they ride without helmets: how they won't
protect your limbs, for example, or won’t make much difference if you’re run
over by a bus. But the fact is, wearing a helmet can prevent up to 88 percent
of cyclists' head injuries.
What's even more concerning are the large numbers of children who are wearing
helmets but do not have them adjusted correctly. Time and time again I see loose
straps dangling well below their chins, or helmets tipped back so far that
their foreheads are exposed to injury. A common excuse I've heard is that
kids "don't like it strapped on so tight."
parent, I get it. But it all depends on what they're used to. My own
children know that unless their helmets are adjusted the right way, the bikes have
to stay in the garage. They know the rule, and they don’t question it.
“As pediatricians, we should make sure families know how important it is to wear bicycle helmets and to make sure they fit correctly—starting with a child’s first tricycle and continuing into adulthood.”
should be strapped snugly enough so that you can only just slip a finger or two
underneath. Likewise, the helmet should sit no more than one or two
finger-breadths above the wearer's eyebrow.
is fun, great exercise and an environmentally friendly way to get where you
need to go. But as with any activity,
accidents do happen. Each year, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26,000 of these
bicycle-related injuries to children and adolescents are traumatic brain
injuries treated in emergency departments.
As pediatricians, we should make sure families know how important it is to wear bicycle helmets and to make sure they fit correctly—starting with a child’s first tricycle and continuing into adulthood.We can also remind
them at well-child visits to check the fit regularly for growing children and
replace helmets if they’ve been hit hard. Once the foam padding inside a helmet
has absorbed the force of a crash, it’s no longer as protective as it should be.
Yes, my wife’s helmet has long been replaced.
think back to that rainy morning, I am unspeakably grateful to the passers-by
who stopped to help my wife, and to paramedics and emergency room staff for
their prompt and expert care.
all, I am thankful my wife wore her helmet.
* The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dipesh Navsaria, MD, FAAP, is vice-president of the
Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also serves on the
Executive Committee of the Council on Early Childhood and has been on numerous
other AAP task forces and working groups.
An associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Navsaria directs the MD-MPH
Dual-Degree Program there.