It’s common knowledge in 2019 that biking without a helmet is a risky proposition. And yet, there are still many, many parents allowing their children to bike helmetless.
And, unfortunately, bike helmet laws only exist in fewer than half of US states.
So, sometimes, child safety experts have to go out of their way to make a point.
Dr. Free Hess is a pediatrician, child safety expert, and mom. She runs a blog called PediMom, and she recently shared a shocking post on Facebook about why proper bike safety is important.
“I see children in my Pediatric ER for head trauma after falling from a bike very often,” Dr. Hess wrote.
“If you or a child is riding a bike, skateboard, ice skates, roller skates, hover boards, scooter, or anything else that has a risk of head trauma, you need to have a helmet on. EVERY TIME,” she continued.
But it’s the photo that Dr. Hess posted that really drives her point home. It’s a photo of a bike helmet that was mangled in a bike accident — and it is truly scary.
Riding a bike is a quintessential part of childhood. There’s nothing like the feeling of zooming around without a care in the world. But biking — along with similar activities like scootering, skateboarding, rollerblading — also comes with risks. That’s where helmets come in.
To some parents, it may seem like overkill to strap on a helmet for a ride around the neighborhood.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” seems to be a lot of parents’ thinking.
But head injuries can cause lasting damage, and it doesn’t take an extreme car accident to incur an injury. Even a simple fall can cause one, and we all know how often kids fall down.
“Concrete is unforgiving and it doesn’t take a fall from very high to cause a serious transfer of energy,” Dr. Gary Smith, an ER doctor in Ohio, told CNN.
Hundreds of thousands of kids are injured in bike accidents every single year, CBS News reports. Some 11% of those injuries are traumatic brain injuries; the rest are bruises, fractures, cuts, and others. Many of these injuries happen on minor roads, and most happen near the bicyclist’s home.
Perhaps no one is more aware of the risks of biking without a helmet than the health professionals who treat injured kids.
Dr. Free Hess, a pediatrician, child safety expert, and mom, recently posted a PSA about bike safety to her Facebook page, PediMom. She shared a photo of a bike helmet that had been worn by a child in an accident.
The helmet is incredibly mangled in a way that is truly scary. It makes you think, What if that helmet hadn’t been there?
“I see children in my Pediatric ER for head trauma after falling from a bike very often,” Dr. Hess explained in the caption.
“Some of these children are struck by cars but many sustain head injuries simply from losing control of their bikes while riding. Helmets in this situation can make the difference between a simple concussion and severe neurological injury and even death,” she wrote.
Then she cited a poll by the University of Michigan, which found that 18% of parents admit that their children don’t wear helmets. That’s about one in five parents — and those are only the ones who admit to it!
“This does not make sense to me,” Dr. Hess wrote. “Imagine this blow being taken by a child’s head WITHOUT the protection of a helmet.”
She continued, “If you or a child is riding a bike, skateboard, ice skates, roller skates, hover boards, scooter, or anything else that has a risk of head trauma, you need to have a helmet on. EVERY TIME.”
Even if 99% of your child’s rides are safe and uneventful, it only takes one traumatic brain injury to change a child’s life forever, and wearing a helmet is a relatively simple fix.
“It is not infrequent that I see a child with a traumatic brain injury that I’m sure would have been much less severe or even avoided altogether if they had been wearing a helmet,” Dr. Hess told Scary Mommy.
Other parents definitely agreed with Dr. Hess’ take. Many shared their own stories of scary injuries, both with and without helmets.
And many people pointed out that it’s just as important for adults to wear helmets when they bike, skateboard, or engage in other similar activities.
Researchers say that kids are more likely to wear a helmet if they see their parents wearing one, and commenters on Dr. Hess’ post have had the same experience.
There are so many good reasons to pop on a helmet, and really no good reasons not to. It’s not overkill, it’s just common sense, as Dr. Hess’ post makes clear.
“We need to find that sweet spot to make sure kids are challenging themselves, but also making sure they don’t pay the price with a traumatic brain injury,” Dr. Smith told CNN.
It’s important to use a helmet that fits properly, too, and it helps if your child actually likes how it looks, so try taking your child shopping and letting them pick out their favorite helmet!