Bicycling is an excellent form of low-impact, cardiovascular exercise; it’s also an enjoyable way to get some fresh air. This activity does not come without risks, however. No matter how skilled you are at cycling, accidents can happen. While many bicycling accidents are minor and involve only cuts and scrapes, some can be serious and involve head injury. This is why it is so important to wear a helmet every time you ride a bicycle.
Head Injury Facts
According to the CDC, approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. die from bicycle-related accidents each year. Of these, 62 percent die due to head injuries.
There are different types of head injuries. The primary types are closed injury and open injury. In a closed injury, the skull does not break but the brain is injured by slamming against the inside of the skull. Concussions are examples of closed head injuries and may be mild or severe. In open injuries, the skull has been cracked or has been pierced.
Trauma to the head often means trauma to the spine. This can result in paralysis. In addition, even if you do not die from a traumatic brain injury, you could experience serious, lifelong neurological problems.
How Helmets Help
Bicycle helmets are created to cushion the skull to prevent open head injuries in a crash. These injuries can occur no matter where you are cycling, whether it is on dirt or pavement. All it takes is one inattentive driver or an unexpected obstacle to send you flying off the bike.
In a Seattle study mentioned on the CDC website, results indicated that bicycle helmets reduced risk of heady injury up to 85 percent.
Not Just Any Helmet Will Do
For adequate protection, you must choose the correctly sized helmet. Some helmets now come with special pads to help give the best fit. Try the helmet on at the store before purchasing it and taking it home.
Look for a CPSC label to ensure the helmet has met Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards. This lets you know that the helmet’s design has been tested to protect the skull during a crash and will not come off.
Wearing the Helmet
A helmet is designed to offer protection when worn correctly. It should fit flat on your head – if you tilt it back, you will not have protection for your forehead. Buckle the straps so that it fits securely.
Check children’s helmets to ensure they are worn correctly, before allowing them to bicycle. Some children may have difficulty understanding how tightly they need to cinch the straps.
It Can Happen to You
There are many reasons people give for not wearing bicycle helmets. Some people feel they are not fashionable. One response to this is that professional bicyclists wear helmets. Top cyclists understand the value of their health and that cycling accidents can occur at any time, possibly leading to serious and permanent brain injury.
Another reason some people may have is that they do not think an accident can happen to them. Perhaps they have been riding for years and only ride on familiar, gentle paths. It is a common error to believe that bad accidents only happen to other people. Unfortunately, accidents can happen to anyone. Wear a helmet to avoid becoming a statistic.