Bike Helmets for Brain Safety

To prevent a serious brain injury, wear a helmet.

Posted Oct 20, 2015

Recently, I noticed a lot of people riding their bikes around my neighborhood, enjoying the crisp fall weather. But I was alarmed to note one thing: the majority of riders were not wearing helmets.

The number one cause of sports-related concussion in the U.S. is bike accidents. Your head is designed to protect your brain. The cerebral fluid around your brain, combined with your skull, scalp and hair will provide sufficient protection if you are running as fast as you can and hit a solid object, such as a tree. However, when you are riding a bicycle, the force of the impact is far greater than it would be when simply running. Your brain is not adequately protected in the event of a crash, unless you are wearing a helmet.

Source: Pixabay

Research has consistently shown that wearing a bike helmet reduces the incidence of concussion and brain injury. A famous study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that riders who wore helmets had their risk of brain injury reduced by 88%. That’s an overwhelming number which has since been backed up by study after study. More recently, New York City released statistics showing that 97% of cyclists who died while bicycling in the city were not wearing helmets.

I can’t emphasize enough that the consequences of not wearing a helmet far outweigh the inconvenience associated with wearing one. Symptoms of a concussion can include sleep disturbances, dizziness, nightmares, loss of taste and smell, explosive temper, disorientation, poor judgment, memory issues, depression, anxiety, guilt or shame, mood swings, anger, and many more. Not only that, once you’ve had a concussion, the next one doesn’t simply inflict the same amount of trauma on the brain again, but multiplies the effects of the first one.

Source: Pixabay

The next highest incidence of sports-related concussion occurs in football. Not a day goes by that there isn’t something in the news about concussion in football, especially in the NFL. Recently, I was featured on a talk radio show with NFL veteran Isaac Byrd, who asked me about the use of helmets in football. I told him that children under 10 should be only be playing touch football and flag football, and when they play, they should not wear any equipment or helmets. The reason for this is that children’s heads are proportionally larger than adults, and their necks are weaker, so when they fall on or are hit in the helmet, greater force is exerted on the brain from being jerked around inside the skull.

Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a survey of over 500 retired NFL players and found that less than half would recommend the sport for kids.

To prevent a concussion, please wear a helmet the next time you engage in the following sports related activities: Riding a bicycle or motorcycle, football, hockey, skateboarding, horseback riding, snowboarding, rollerblading, baseball, riding in a dune buggy or snowmobile, boxing, wrestling.

There is a way!™

-Dr. Diane

Additional sources:

Dellinger AM, Kresnow MJ. Bicycle helmet use among children in the United States: The effects of legislation, personal and household factors. Journal of Safety Research 2010:41; 375-380.