Is Your Helmet Safe?

With the summer season in full swing, it is important to remember the best way to reduce head injuries is to wear a helmet. Many summer sports that people enjoy require the use of helmets for safety. Yet while helmet usage is on the rise, many people still neglect to strap one on before climbing aboard a bike, lacing up rollerblades, or skateboarding.

The reality: Universal use of bike helmets alone would save the lives of 150 children ever year and eliminate tens of thousands of severe scalp and facial injuries, according to Safe Kids USA.

The bottom line: Leaving the helmet behind is both dangerous, and potentially deadly.

Regardless of the sport, helmets cushion the blow of a fall, hit or other impact on the head. Nearly all helmets are made with expanded polystyrene, the same material found in picnic coolers.  Style and construction vary by sport, and you need to use the helmet appropriately.

Here is some guidance on finding the proper helmet for your favorite sport.

BIKING AND ROLLERBLADING

Wearing a helmet is regulated more for biking than other sports since, in recent years, many city and county governments have adopted bicycle helmet laws, and started enforcing them.

Although one helmet will work for both biking and rollerblading, serious skaters should consider using a helmet that offers better protection for the back of the head—the most likely area to hit the ground.

Wear either helmet low on your forehead, about two finger widths above your eyebrows. Sit the helmet evenly between your ears and flat on your head. Adjust the straps and pads so the helmet is snug and secure and doesn’t move up and down or side to side when the strap is tightened. 

Make certain any attached mirrors can break away during a fall.

SKATEBOARDING

Unlike bike helmets, most skateboarding helmets are designed to withstand multiple blows. Helmets for this sport are different because crashes are more frequent and less severe.

Look for proper fit and a sturdy chin strap. Padding should not restrict circulation and should not be so loose that the helmet can fall off. Also, notice whether the helmet blocks your vision and hearing.

FOLLOW THESE HELMET TIPS BEFORE VENTURING OUT.

  • Find a good fit. Adjust straps so the helmet sits comfortably on your head, snugly touching all around but not squeezing. You should not be able to pull the helmet off or move it in any direction. Wear the helmet on top of your head, not tilted in any direction.
  • Know when to replace your helmet. Some helmets need to be replaced after you’ve been in a collision. Others, such as for skateboarding, are designed for multiple knocks. Read your helmet’s instruction manual.
  • Establish a “helmet habit.” Children are more likely to wear helmets if their parents do and if they’re introduced to them early. Always wear a helmet when participating in an activity that can cause injury to your head. If your child is reluctant to wear a helmet, try letting them wear a helmet of their choosing.

REMEMBER THESE FOUR S’S:

  • Size: The Snell Memorial Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that tests and develops helmet safety standards, advises sports enthusiasts to try on several different helmets before purchasing. The best way to gauge comfort level and fit is through comparison.
  • Strap: Make sure the chin strap fits under your chin snuggly and the “V” in the straps meets under the ear. Expect to spend up to 15 minutes on this the first time you put on a new helmet and re-check the fit regularly, says Randy Swart of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
  • Straight: Wear a helmet low on the forehead, about two finger widths above your eyebrows.
  • Sticker: Look for a manufacturer’s sticker citing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standard. You can also look for independent certification by Snell or the Safety Equipment Institute.

For more information visit www.helmets.org, www.SEInet.org, www.cpsc.gov, www.smf.org or www.biausa.org.

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