Don’t be hard-headed |

Don’t be hard-headed

Dr. Drew Werner

EAGLE COUNTY – Today let’s start with a quiz. Answer honestly. It is an open book test, no studying is required. Here we go: 1) Do you wear your seatbelt in the car? 2) Do you make children riding in the car with you wear a seatbelt? 3) Are you a terrible driver? That is do you regularly get into crashes, accidents or run off the road? As I am sure you know the correct answers should be: 1) yes, 2) yes, 3) no. Now, logic would lead us to think that if indeed we are safe drivers, rarely getting into accidents, there would be little reason to buckle up. Throw in the variable of “the other guy,” however, and suddenly the roads seem less safe and we buckle up. This article is not about seatbelt use, however. Rather it is about bike helmets.Some things, like the importance of wearing a bike helmet, need repeating because tragedy can occur all too fast. It is amazing the number of people I see riding bicycles without helmets and risking forever changing their life (and the lives of their family members). I tell my young patients all the time, “We can fix broken bones and we can fix cuts and scrapes, but we can’t fix broken heads.” That is a simple truth, but it is all too easy to get seduced into that dangerous attitude of “it won’t happen to me.” According to Webster’s, an accident is “an unpleasant and unintended happening, sometimes resulting from negligence, that results in injury, loss or damage.” I’ve never been witness to a pleasant or intended bicycle accident! That’s why helmets are so important. While our brains are protected in our generally hard heads, we shouldn’t be hard-headed! A blow to the head as from a bike accident results in significant forces to our brains, causing them to literally bounce around in our skulls. The resulting injury can be as mild as a bruise (or concussion) or as severe as a tearing of fragile blood vessels (intracranial hemorrhage). Either injury can have far-reaching and permanent consequences.Here are some numbers to consider:- There are 85 million bicycle riders in the US. – About 800 bicyclists die in the US every year. – About 550,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. – One in eight of the cyclists with reported injuries has a brain injury. – Two-thirds of the deaths are from traumatic brain injuries. – Helmets can prevent 88 percent of cyclists’ brain injuries. – About half of the deaths are children under 15 years old.Prevention is the best medicine. So what helmet should you get? First, check to make sure it meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) bike helmet standard. It is law now for every helmet made after 1999 to meet the CPSC standard. While the CPSC is the benchmark, ASTM and Snell B-90 and B-95 are similar standards. The next most important thing is fit. Many sizes are available for riders of almost every age. There aren’t any helmets for children less than one year old because, at that age, a child doesn’t have the muscular control to be safe in any bike accident. Your helmet should be comfortable against your head (no baseball caps underneath) and neither loose nor tight. The straps should be adjusted to keep the helmet level and on the forehead. If you can push up the front of the helmet more than 1 inch, it is probably too loose. If you have any questions about fitting your helmet, or just want to see the variety of bike helmets available, visit any one of our excellent local bike shops! With so many styles available, you can find one you’ll be happy and smart to wear.Next week I will talk more about upcoming helmet giveaways through Sallyann Bluhm and ThinkFirst-Vail Valley Medical Center, as well as fitting and wearing helmets properly. Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado

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