In Westport, Weston, Fairfield and neighboring towns, many of us live on cul de sacs, quiet streets or have paved driveways. These smooth surfaces are ideal for kids to play on scooters, bikes, skateboards, roller blades, rip sticks and other wheeled toys. While it makes us happy to see so many of our patients outside, learning balance, practicing coordination and getting exercise, we are routinely surprised by the sheer number of youngsters we see on a daily basis without helmets.
For your child’s safety, please insist that if your child is on wheels, he or she must wear a helmet. Parents, this should be non- negotiable! Connecticut’s bicycle helmet law states that children 15 years and under must wear a bicycle helmet on the “traveled portion of any highway.” The statistics on bike safety are overwhelmingly in support of helmets any time your child is on a bike. There are approximately 900 bicycle related deaths in the United States per year. More than 40 percent of all bicycle-related deaths are due to head injuries, and approximately 75 percent of all bicycle-related head injuries occur among children ages 14 and under. Therefore, if your child refuses to wear a helmet, you should refuse to let him or her ride, no matter how short the ride or how “safe” the wheels. Parents should be aware that head injuries have occurred with children riding in the garage, in the basement and on tricycles or toddler “ride-on” toys.
It is also critical that your child’s helmet fit and be worn properly. It is estimated that improper helmet use increases the risk of head injury by a factor of 3. We all know that for kids on wheels, skateboarders included, wearing a helmet without securing the chin-strap is pointless; the momentum of the fall will cause the helmet to fall off before your child’s head hits the ground.
There are other aspects of helmet use to keep in mind. In a study carried out in a general pediatric practice in Falmouth, Massachusetts, only four percent of teenagers and children wore a bike helmet that was in adequate condition and fitted properly. Three individual aspects of helmet fit were found to be the most problematic. Many helmets were in a ‘resting position’ too high on the forehead. A proper resting position is less than two fingerbreadths above the brow. Secondly, only 33 percent of the study group had the strap positioned properly around the ears – the helmet strap did not make a “V” around the ears. The third problem with fit was excessive movement of the helmet from front to back of the head. If your child’s helmet slides back and forth more than one inch the helmet is not a safe fit. Please pay attention to these aspects of helmet use and make your older children aware of them as well.
For skateboards, rip sticks and roller blades, Willows Pediatrics also recommends that your child wear elbow, knee and wrist pads as well as closed-toe shoes. Please note that a helmet must be replaced after it has been in an accident or severe fall or every five years.
Let us know if you have any questions about this topic. We’d be happy to chat with you or address any specific concerns. For additional tips on getting your kids to wear their helmets, check out the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute’s site. Keep riding … and keep safe!