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Protecting Lives, One Bicycle Helmet at a Time

12/15/2016

There are few better moments in a parent’s life than that of teaching a child to ride their first bike, or giving him or her a new one to replace the old.  But all too often that other piece of bike equipment, the bicycle helmet, goes overlooked. In fact, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study revealed that a mere 48% of children age 8-14 wore bicycle helmets when riding.

Each year nearly 300,000 children go to the emergency room because of bike injuries; many of the injuries are serious enough to require a few days stay in the hospital.  Worse yet, some of these will lead to the child’s death. Most bicycle fatalities are due to a head injury.  “Even when not fatal, a head injury can result in a significant brain injury,” states Carson Valley Medical Center Emergency Department physician Kandra Yee.  She continues, “a brain injury during childhood and adolescence can have serious consequences to a child’s development in academics, motor skills, and emotional well-being.”

The best way to avoid major head trauma during a bicycle accident is for bicyclists, of all ages, to wear a helmet. That is why Carson Valley Medical Center partners with Douglas County’s Project Santa Claus each holiday season to supply bike helmets to families who may not otherwise be able to afford them.  While a bike helmet will not prevent all injuries, it can certainly help prevent the most dangerous ones. “When you look at the statistics, the vast majority of bicycle fatalities involve head injuries, and the vast majority of those with head injuries were not wearing helmets,” says Yee. 

In order for helmets to have the best chance of preventing head injuries they must be worn properly and consistently. What is proper helmet use?
1. Ensure proper fit. 
2. Wear it correctly. Wear the helmet level with your forehead, not tipped back. Ensure that the straps are fastened and adjusted snug enough so that the helmet can’t be twisted or pulled around on your head.
3. Check the sticker. Your helmet should have a sticker that says it meets the standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 
4. Make it a habit. “Accidents don’t just happen on busy streets or highways,” warns Yee, “they can also happen on your neighborhood streets, on dirt trails, and at the park.” 

If you’re not sure if your helmet meets consumer product safety standards, or if it fits correctly, contact a bicycle specialist at your local bike shop. For questions about the Project Santa/Carson Valley Medical Center bicycle helmet program, contact (775) 339-8882.  

Pictured: CVMC Chief Executive Officer Preston Becker presents a check to Kiwanian Gary Dove for Project Santa Claus bicycle helmets.

Additional sources:
Kidshealth.org
US Department of Transportation
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety


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