Headed for Injury?

When it comes to wearing helmets, kids and parents get a failing grade, a new national survey shows.

May 20, 2004 -- For many American kids, riding a bike, skateboarding, or zipping around on their scooter is a fun part of outdoor play. But a new study reveals most kids are not being safe when wheeling around.

Fewer than half of all U.S. children wear helmets when biking, skating, and riding scooters, a survey conducted by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and Bell Sports reveals. And of the kids who are wearing helmets, 35 percent are wearing them improperly.

Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles, according to the SAFE KIDS Campaign. Head injuries account for up to 80 percent of bike-related injuries and nearly half of these incidents involve a traumatic brain injury.

But when worn correctly and consistently, helmets are very effective at reducing the risk of bicycle-related death and injury, as well as the severity of a head injury when a crash occurs. Helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent, the survey said.

The American Medical Association reportedly called bike helmets the single most cost-effective safety device ever made. But they have to be worn correctly! Helmets that slip to the front, back or side of the head expose parts of the skull, while extremely loose or unbuckled straps can allow the helmet to completely fall off the head in an accident. Follow this checklist to ensure proper fit:

  • Eyes: The rim of the helmet should be 1-to-2 finger-widths above the eyebrows.
  • Ears: The straps should form a "V" under just beneath the ear lobe.
  • Mouth: The buckle should be flush against the skin under the chin; when the rider opens his mouth, he should feel it snug on the chin and hugging the head.

Moms and dads can also help make sure their kids wear helmets by putting one on themselves. When accompanied by helmeted adult riders, child helmet usage rose to 67 percent, compared to 50 percent among children riding with a bare-headed adult, the survey showed.

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