Should I or Should I Not Wear a Helmet While Bicycling?

My cycling helmet is not the most fashionable item in my cycling wardrobe, but I believe it is the most important. I strongly believe it helps protect my brain which controls every organ and function of my body.

I ride with my friends and two cycling groups, and yes we all wear helmets. The groups I ride with actually require the participants to wear one. But, there are times I run into people while mountain biking or road cycling without helmets. I am finding that more people wear helmets than do not.  I sometimes I ask people why they are not wearing a helmet and I provide them with some knowledge so that in the future, hopefully they will think twice. Most of the time people say to me “I am not going downhill yet”.  I sometimes see people riding with a helmet on a backpack, and I wonder why they do not put it on their head since it would be the same weight as carrying it.  Some states and cities even have laws that cyclists must wear a helmet or they will be fined. Most of the people I see without helmets are in-town commuters or those on their beach cruisers. I have yet to see someone riding a beach cruiser with a helmet on.

Mountain Biking

Helmets range in prices from under $30.00 to hundreds of dollars. All helmets sold in the Untied States meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard. Look for the CPSC sticker inside the helmet. All helmets are designed to protect the brain and head from impact no matter what the price. More expensive helmets maybe more stylish or offer more ventilation, and are generally lighter.

For women riders some of the helmets are designed more to fit a female’s head and some are ponytail friendly. Some helmets have visors that can be removed. They help shield the eyes from sunlight and they also offer protection from the elements.

Statistics from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

  • Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders.
  • Head injuries account for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths.
  • A very high percentage of cyclists’ brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated by different studies at anywhere from 45 to 88 percent.

Sources can be obtained from this link: http://www.bhsi.org/stats.htm

How to fit a helmet?

I like helmets with the locking retention. They fit snugly, fit with or without a head-cover, and they feel secure. The helmet should fit level, and it should rest above the eyebrows. The side straps should fit around the ears and the chin strap should be tight enough that no more than two fingers should fit through. If I shake my head and the helmet moves, I need to cinch it down a little bit more.

Maybe this will make you think twice.

A person can still be injured if in an accident while wearing a helmet. I met a woman whose nephew was in a coma state after being injured while mountain biking and wearing a helmet. She believes he would have died without the helmet.

During many years of working in hospitals and rehabilitation departments,  I have seen many brain injured patients from cycling accidents.  None of them were wearing helmets. Seeing and treating these patients makes me think about how important it is to protect my head.

While on the trail and the road I am going to continue protecting the most vital organ I have.

Following is an interview with a gentleman who suffered head trauma while in a cycling accident. He was not wearing a helmet.

In an instant your life could change forever

Jenn: “How did your accident happen?”

RSC: “I was riding my bicycle down the street and I went to make a left turn onto the sidewalk. I went up the corner cut-out ramp and I didn’t have enough time or room to avoid the intersection signal pole. I was riding somewhere between 12-15 mph when I hit the pole with my head.

Jenn: “Do you think it is important to wear a helmet while bicycle riding?

RSC: “Absolutely, accidents happen.”

Jenn: “Would you wear a helmet the next time you ride?”

RSC: “After this accident if I ever want to get on a bike again I would absolutely wear a helmet.”

“I wasn’t wearing a helmet because I didn’t think I could get hurt and not because I did or didn’t think I would look cool. But, let me ask you something: How cool do you look with your head bleeding and having permanent injuries? Or, how cool do you feel with your entire family worried that you might not live?”

Jenn: “Explain the aftermath of your accident.”

RSC: “I was taken to the hospital and I was in the intensive care unit for a week and then on the rehabilitation unit of the hospital for 3 weeks. I am still going to physical therapy today to regain my balance with walking. I fractured the base of my skull, my right ear bled for 10 days and I still can not hear out of it. Half of my left hand is still numb.”

“Because I had a head injury the state has taken away my driver’s license. One big thing for all you guys out there is that this kind of injury usually takes away your desire for intimacy, as it did for me.”

“I have not been able to drive, work, hear out of my right ear, feel things in my hand, or have an intimate relationship since the beginning of October 2009. I have hurt every region of my brain to some extent.”

“The fracture of my inner ear will require surgery to fix my hearing problem. Let’s not forget that if I ever suffer another head trauma it could be catastrophic, and although the odds of that happening are very low so were the odds of me hitting that pole with my head in the first place.”

Jenn: “What were your limitations in the hospital and what are they today?”

RSC: “I have been told I have a brain injury. In the hospital I had difficulty reading, it took time and work to resolve. I currently have difficulty with spelling. I also can not work now, so I have no income. I have problems concentrating. I now take 9-11 pills a day. It is very hard to keep myself from getting aggravated. It is hard for me to initiate or complete a task. I still get dizzy every morning when I sit up in bed. I upset most of my family because I became short tempered and combative after the accident. I can not walk long distances like I used to. After leaving the hospital I experienced a severe pain that was located on the top of my head. I still get physically taxed when doing minor chores, because of months of immobility.”

Jenn: “Any other comments?”

RSC: “If I can get one message across to people is that accidents happen, that is why these are called accidents. And if you can wear a piece of equipment that can and will limit the extent of damage to your body, choosing not to makes you selfish because when you get hurt the people who love you suffer too.”

I would like to thank RSC for sharing his story with us.

When Should a Helmet be Replaced?

From the research I have done; I have found that a helmet should be replaced after a crash even if the foam looks intact. If the helmet is dropped and the foam or plastic is cracked, it should be replaced. Also if the foam is crumby, or spongy; replace the helmet.

I have read that a helmet should be replaced every five to eight years. Some helmets from the 1970’s do not have a foam liner. Hence, it may be a good idea to invest in a new helmet; plus some of the older helmets do not meet the ANSI standards.

If a helmet has large cracks in the plastic especially running between the vents, it should be replaced. Chemical exposure can damage the plastic or the foam. I have read if there is discoloration on the plastic or if it is soft, the helmet should be replaced.

Also if it does not fit correctly, it should be replaced.

Now you decide if you should or should not wear a helmet while bicycling.

Jenn K.

One Response to Should I or Should I Not Wear a Helmet While Bicycling?

  1. I am alive today because of a bike helmet. Bad fall, at high speed, when I was in fifth grade. I hit the asphalt hard enough to completely shatter the helmet’s foam, shave the plastic facing completely away, and remove all the skin from my cheek, chin, knuckles, and palms.

    I was up and playing volleyball two days later. My doctor said that, if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, there’s no question that I would have died.

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