Get a helmet, and make sure it fits
EAGLE COUNTY – Spring has sprung – at least today as I am writing this. Then again, here we are in Eagle County, so it may change before I look up from my computer screen and out the window again. Driving through Glenwood Canyon on my way to and from Valley View Hospital this morning, I was reminded how lucky we are to be here. It was really put in perspective when a family member from Upstate New York called recently and told me how beautiful their weather was back east. In amazement she declared, “We have had sunshine for 10 days straight.”I think we have missed the sunshine only 10 days in the past year in Eagle. It is good to be reminded – intentionally or not – how easy it is to take the simple things for granted. Helmets are important. I tell my patients that if anything other than a riding lawnmower moves under your feet, you need to wear one. Do not let an avoidable tragedy forever change your life, or the life of someone you love. Wearing a helmet is important, but fitting it properly is just as essential. In order to make sure your new (or old!) helmet will protect you like it should, it needs to fit right. Adapted from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, here are some brief instructions on how to fit your (or equally importantly your child’s) helmet. For more information, go to http://www.bhsi.org/. You can also check out http://www.cpsc.gov/kids/kidsafety/correct.html for drawings of a proper fit.The first thing to remember is helmets don’t work unless they are on your head. Your bicycle handlebars don’t need one dangling there. The second thing to remember is that helmets are not hats. The helmet must be level on your head and strapped on securely to be protective in a crash. In addition, the fitting pads inside must touch all the way around and the strap needs to be comfortably snug. So, how do you do all this? First, adjust the fit pads or ring.Most helmets come with extra foam fitting pads to customize the fit. You can usually remove the top pad or use a thin one there to lower the helmet on the head, bringing its protection down further on the sides. Use thicker pads on the side if your head is narrow and there is a space, or add thicker pads in the back for shorter heads. Move pads around to touch your head evenly all the way around. If you have a model with a fitting ring instead, just adjust the fit by tightening the ring as needed. Next, adjust the straps.Put the helmet on, level on your head. Adjust the rear straps, then the front straps, to locate the Y fitting where the straps come together just under your ear. You may have to slide the straps across the top of the helmet to get them even on both sides. Then adjust the chinstrap so it is comfortably snug. Now adjust the rear stabilizer if the helmet has one. Are you done?Shake your head around vigorously. Then put your palm under the front edge and push up and back. Can you move the helmet more than an inch or so from level, exposing your bare forehead? If the answer is “yes,” you need to tighten the strap in front of your ear. Now reach back and pull up on the back edge. Can you move the helmet more than an inch? If so, tighten the rear strap. When you are done, your helmet should be level, feel solid on your head and be comfortable. It should not bump on your glasses (if it does, tighten the nape strap). If it still does not fit that way, keep working with the straps and pads, or try another helmet. It is important to remember that not every helmet fits every head. Pick a color and style you like, but if you can’t get it to fit well, pick another style.If you do not have a helmet or you need a new one, now is the time to make that investment. If you cannot afford one, help is on the way. SallyAnn Blum directs the local Think First program. She actually gives away free helmets and car seats at our local events, festivals and fairs. I will include those dates as they approach in future articles, so stay on the lookout. If you would like more information about Think First or her helmet give-a-ways you can contact Sally at 479-7221.Make your summer a safe one. I hope to see you out on the trail!Remember your health is your responsibility. Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.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 email@example.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado
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