Helmets are used in a variety of recreational activities, and the benefits of wearing the proper headgear for sports injury prevention are widely understood. However, many people (mostly adults) choose to not wear a helmet even when they understand the risks.
Knowing the Facts About Helmet Safety
Research shows that the majority of bicyclist fatalities occur when riders are not wearing a helmet, and the risk of serious head injury while biking is reduced by at least 62%.
Motorcyclists reduce their risk of head injury by 69% when wearing a helmet and their risk of death by 42%, according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. In Michigan, there was a 14% increase in hospitalized trauma patients with head injuries and a 38% increase in skull fracture-related injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes following the repeal of the motorcycle helmet-use law.
Sports such as football and lacrosse require players to wear helmets, and increased awareness of head injury impacts have spurred better testing and design of these helmets. The NCAA reported that concussions, which can occur from blows to the body as well as the head, make up 7.4% of all injuries in college football players.
Other sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, hockey, equestrian, or baseball are impacted by helmet use. For example, horseback riding has a higher injury rate per hour of exposure than sports like downhill ski racing, motorcycle racing, and even football. Reports show that at least 60% of equestrian related deaths are caused by head injuries, and helmets can reduce that risk by over 70%.
The research on helmet safety is plentiful, yet often ignored. Having a full understanding of the role of helmets in sports injury prevention, including fit and care, can protect you from serious head injuries while continuing to participate in the activities you enjoy.
The Role of Proper Helmet Use and Fit in Sports Injury Prevention
Helmets protect your head from injuries specific to the activity they are designed for. A snowboarding helmet is not suffi
cient for use while biking, just like a bike helmet isn’t sufficient for use on a motorcycle. Each is designed to sustain injury from the height, angle, and force of crashes that occur in specific activities without inhibiting necessary movement to perform that activity.
When purchasing a helmet, make sure it is used as intended for adequate protection.
Helmets are effective sports injury protection when used properly, yet in order to function correctly during a fall or collision, they must fit properly as well. Each type of helmet has different specifications to be aware of, such as where it sits, the tightness of the chin strap, and the size and shape of the helmet around your head. Be sure to have your helmet properly fitted before purchasing.
Resources for Buying the Right Helmet
The Sinas Dramis team has a special interest in helmet safety and works to prevent head injuries within our community as much as possible. That is why five organizations, including Sinas Dramis Law Firm, partner with local community organizations around the state and host an annual free bike helmet giveaway known as Lids for Kids. You can grab your free, properly fitted helmet at one of three events held annually in Traverse City, Lansing, and Grand Rapids.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of fact sheets available with specific information about different types of helmets. These are great resources that explain proper use and care, safety certifications to look for, and fitting instructions pertaining to each type of helmet.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) does independent testing on many types of helmets and gives a safety performance score on various models. Their helmet ratings are especially helpful in comparing safety and price when looking to purchase a helmet.