In the U.S., 2% of the motor vehicle crash deaths in 2013 were bicyclists. Not surprisingly,75% of the bicyclists deaths were caused by head injuries, thus highlighting the importance of wearing a helmet.
Other injuries such as bruises, skin abrasions, even broken bones heal without much, if any, noticeable effects, but traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are different. They can leave permanent and lasting effects. And why would anyone not want to do all one could do to prevent that type of life-changing injury?
For example, even with a mild head injury the person could have a hard time sleeping, not able to stay mentally focused on something, have memory issues or other interruptions of other thought processes.
With a severe head injury, the effects can include any of the above plus vomiting, seizures, convulsions, slurred speech, agitation, numbness, loss of muscle coordination … and the list goes on and on.
So while the goal is to not sustain any type of head injury, although on average careful cyclists crash every 4,500 miles, wearing a helmet at the time of a crash could mean the difference of not sustaining any injury or a mild injury with minor effects, instead of one so severe that you lose all ability to have a full and productive life.
Do Helmets Work?
The numbers speak for themselves. Statistics show that four out of six riders did not sustain serious head injury when wearing a helmet at the time of a serious crash.
When properly designed, as most of the new ones are now, much of the energy from a blow to the head is absorbed by the helmet that would otherwise be transferred to the brain. Look for helmets that have thick plastic foam insert molded (not glued) over a hard outer plastic shell. Complete it with a chin strap and adjustable head retention system and you have a quality helmet that will do as much as it can to reduce the effects of a blow to the head.
It’s The Law
In some cities, it is the law – you have to wear a helmet when riding a bike. Dallas, TX is one of those cities. The fine for a first offense is $10.00, second offense $25 and the third and subsequent offense is $50 per violation.
Did you notice how bright and colorful most of the helmets are? This helps drivers see you better especially during fog, rain or other low-light conditions. So while a helmet helps prevent brain injuries in crashes, they can also help prevent crashes in the first place by increasing your visibility to other drivers.
Vanity should not be an excuse for not wearing a helmet, yet that is the reason many do not wear one. Risking a life-changing head injury is not worth keeping your hair looking nice or worrying if your helmet coordinates with your outfit. Be smart – ride smart – wear a helmet.