A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Bike helmets: 3 things to know

It can be hard to get your child to wear a helmet, but it is the most important thing your child should wear when getting on a bike. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, helmets are the most effective way to prevent head trauma and death due to bike crashes.

A girl rides her bike.

Helmets are the most effective way to prevent head trauma and death due to bike crashes.

According to a 2001 study on bicycle helmet effectiveness, helmets can reduce the risk of:

  • Head injury by 45%
  • Brain injury by 33%
  • Facial injury by 27%
  • Fatal injury by 29%

“If they’re wearing a helmet, we don’t usually see them in the Emergency Department for head or brain injuries,” said Liz Kracht, injury prevention coordinator for Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Some kids hit their head on the concrete or they might hit their head on their bike. Helmets are extra protection for their skull or brain.”

Size is very important

You should make sure your child is with you when you get the helmet to ensure proper sizing.

“Bringing your children ensures the helmet won’t hurt their head. Kids are less likely to wear a helmet that hurts when they wear it,” Kracht said.

When buying a helmet for your child, it should fit snug on the head without giving the child a headache.

When your child is wearing their helmet:

  • You should be able to fit two fingers between their eyes and the bottom of their helmet.
  • They should be able to see the helmet if they look up.
  • They should be able to open their mouth.
  • You should be able to fit one finger between the strap and their throat.
  • Their ears should fit into the “V” of the straps on the helmet.

Do not reuse a crashed bike helmet

If your child is in an accident with a bike helmet, the recommendation is to get a new helmet.

“The inside may be cracked or it may not be as secure as possible,” Kracht said.

Similarly, you should not buy a used helmet. You do not know what it has been through and may not be as secure as a new one.

Tips and tricks to get your kids to wear a helmet

One of the biggest problems with helmets is convincing children to wear them.

“Most young children are wearing helmets. The age group I see most not wearing helmets are kids in middle school. They also have some of the riskier behaviors,” Kracht said.

Besides helping to get a proper fit, bringing the child with you allows them to pick out the type of helmet they want. There are many different colors and styles of helmets, including those with special characters or spikes on them.

“A good trick is to purchase stickers of their favorite characters to put on the helmet,” Kracht said. “This gets them more excited about the helmet and they get a fun art project out of it.”

Kids are also more likely to wear a helmet if their parents are wearing helmets, too.

Marshfield Clinic Health System offers many programs for bike safety in central and northern Wisconsin. You can call Kracht at 715-387-9675 to learn more.

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