Prevention the best road to good health
Vail, CO, Colorado
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, 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.
There has been a bit of news recently challenging the safety of bike helmets. The premise is that people who wear helmets are more reckless or take more chances. While there is some evidence truth in that statement, the misguided conclusion that we shouldn’t wear helmets is far from truth. In fact, prevention remains the best road to health. With that in mind, besides wearing a helmet, ride safely and remember these basic tips:
” Bicyclists need to follow the same rules as cars and trucks. Follow street signs, ride on the right side of the road and yield to pedestrians.
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” Ride single file on the road.
” If you are crossing the street consider walking your bike. Then you are a pedestrian and cars, trucks and bicyclists need to yield to you.
” Make yourself visible. Wear bright clothing and use appropriate reflectors as well as lights at night.
” When on the road, signal for stops and turns.
” Always watch out for the “other guy” who may not be watching out for you.
” Stay well hydrated and carry water for your bike trips.
” Wear sun block and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from our spectacular Colorado sunshine.
” There are 85 million bicycle riders in the US.
” About 550,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year.
” 50,000 of those visits are for brain injuries.
” About 950 bicyclists die in the US every year.
” 650 of those that die are children. Over 400 are under 15 years old.
” A helmet can prevent 85% to 88% of cyclists’ brain injuries.
” Of all consumer products, only cars cause more injuries than bicycles.
” Only 15 to 25 percent of our children regularly use bicycle helmets.
SallyAnn Bluhm is the director of Think First at the Vail Valley Medical Center. She is a true champion of safety in our community. Through Vail Valley Medical Center’s commitment to safety and sponsorship of Think First she brings not only awareness of helmet safety, but actually brings those helmets to those that need them as well. Look for my next column in two weeks to highlight details of Think First’s events and give-a-ways through the summer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.