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Make sure bike helmet fits

Dr. Drew WernerVail, CO Colorado

I hope you had a great Cinco de Mayo. I celebrate May 5 every year, but it always used to be because it was my father’s birthday. I don’t think I ever called it Cinco de Mayo until he passed away, but it is a fitting celebration nonetheless. Rather than recall his passing with sadness, I happily know that who I am is because of him and my mom. And they always made sure I wore a bike helmet.Dear Doc: I want to get my son a new bike helmet. How do I know if it fits him well?- A Mom in AvonDear Mom: Thanks for the great and almost too-obvious question. Helmets need to fit well, certainly better than baggy pants and skate shoes. 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 (nape) 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 chin strap 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 nape 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.Helmets do not last forever, either. A few minor cuts and scrapes are OK from rough handling, but a crack, bad fall or any signs that the protective material is deteriorating means it is time to get a new one. We are really fortunate to have many truly excellent bike shops in our valley. Any of the experts there will be happy to not only help you pick out a great helmet, but make sure it fits perfectly, too. If your old helmet is showing its age, bring it in and they will let you know if it is time to replace it. In any case, make your summer a safe one. I hope to see you out on the trail.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a regular column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, CO81658.


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