Helmets Keep Kids Ahead of the Pack

It's something most every child does, but, if you're not careful, it can turn tragic in an instant.

Bicycle riding injuries send more than a half million people to the emergency room every year. A helmet is your best defense when riding a bike. The Bike Helmet Safety Institute says anywhere from 45- to 88- percent of brain injuries to bike riders could be prevented by wearing a helmet.

Kindergartners at Silver Lake Elementary School recently learned how important bike helmets are from Stormont-Vail Trauma Team members Darlene Whitlock and Joe Clark.

First, they stayed indoors for a lesson indoors on proper fit. Clark says helmets should be snug, but not uncomfortable. They should sit flat on the head, not tipped forward or backward. The front of the helmet should sit about two fingers above the eyebrows, and when you open your mouth, the front should pull down just a bit.

With helmets on, the kids headed outdoors for a lesson that would really make an impression. Whitlock uses cantaloupes - one's in a helmet, one's not. The kids hold them high and let them fall. Each time they feel the difference - soft spots in the unprotected melon; no problems for the melon protected by the helmet. Eventually, the unprotected melon cracks and splits open on the ground.

Whitlock says the kids pick right away that the cantaloupe is their skull and the contents inside is their brain. By dropping it repetitively and letting them feel the outside covering get soft, they understand that it can transfer into an injury to their brain, she said.

Whitlock says when your child falls off a bike, it's their head that will usually hit the ground first. She says research shows those falls add up over time, and can cause a cumulative brain injury. Wearing a helmet every time is key, she says, because you never know when a fall or something worse can happen.

With the melon's image in mind, the kids say they will use their heads and snap on the helmets to keep safely moving along.

Whitlock says children learn by example, so it's just as important for moms and dads to put on those helmets, too.

For more information on bike helmet safety, including proper fit and more injury statistics, log on the Bike Helmet Safety Institute web site, www.bhsi.org.

Stormont-Vail HealthCare is also giving you a chance to win a free bike helmet. For entry information, click the icon on our home page.

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