Carefree bike riding is a rite of passage in childhood — if it’s done safely. Among Illinois children ages 5-14 who were admitted to emergency rooms for bike injuries last year, 40 percent had injuries to their head or neck. That’s why wearing helmets while bike riding is so important, says Joseph Cangas, MD, of Columbia, Ill., who started the nonprofit Helmets First organization, along with a website to promote bike safety (www.helmetsfirst.com).
“As a pediatrician, I’ve seen everything from scalp lacerations requiring staples to stays in the intensive care unit that have led to total devastation due to kids in bike accidents not wearing a helmet,” says Dr. Cangas, also known as the “Helmet Doctor.” He says that children should never get on a bike, scooter, skateboard or skates without a helmet.
“As soon as kids are riding anything, they should put on a helmet, even if they’re riding with parents or in pull carts,” Dr. Cangas says. “Even a spill on a tricycle can lead to a devastating injury. But 85 percent of all bicycle-related head injuries could be prevented by a helmet. I advise parents to put the bike on a hook and only take it down once the helmet is on.”
Bike Helmet Tips from the ‘Helmet Doctor’
Expensive doesn’t mean better. A $4 helmet can be as safe as a $100 helmet. Check the inside of the helmet for a label that states the helmet is CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) certified.
Make sure the fit is snug so the helmet doesn’t wiggle. Make sure no more than two fingers can fit under the chin strap when the helmet is on. Adjust the chin strap accordingly.
Adults should lead by example. Studies show more children wear a helmet if their parents do, too.
To learn more about helmet safety and to have a trained safety expert check a helmet for proper fit, parents and children can visit Safety Stop, a child safety resource provided by Progress West Hospital. Safety Stop is open Monday and Thursday afternoons in the Progress West Hospital Lobby. Please call 636.344.KIDS (636.344.5437) or toll-free 800.678.KIDS (800.678.5437) to schedule an appointment.