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Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: Have bike? Need helmet

Posted July 1, 2013

A bicycle helmet is the only thing that’s between your head and the pavement if you fall off your bike.

A bike helmet absorbs the impact of a fall and prevents injuries to your head and neck that include skull fractures, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. These injuries can lead to paralysis, developmental delays, and even death.

Of the 700 bicycle-related deaths that happen each year, nearly 75 percent of them are due to head injuries. Almost all of these head injuries could have been avoided if the rider had been wearing a helmet.

Kimberly Bailey, injury prevention coordinator for Duke University Hospital, shares tips about the importance of wearing a helmet and what to consider when selecting a helmet.

Selecting Your Helmet

While knowing why to wear a helmet is important, knowing how to wear one is the crucial step in having a safe ride. When selecting a helmet, consider the following characteristics:

Proper fit. Your helmet should be snug but comfortable.

Level. Your helmet should be level on your head -- not tilting forward or backward.

Safety. Look for a sticker that indicates compliance with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Snell Memorial Foundation. This sticker is usually inside the lining of the helmet.

Creating the Perfect Fit

Your helmet likely won't fit perfectly when you first put it on, but a few, small adjustments should make it work.

Most helmets come with pieces of foam that help you tailor the helmet to your head’s shape and size. Add the pads to the side of the interior of the helmet if you have a narrow head. If your head is rounder or shorter, add the pads to the back of the helmet to get a secure fit.

For more about helmets and considerations for children, read the full post at DukeHealth.org. Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health information and tips every Tuesday.

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