Get your head right for summer sports
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The statistics are staggering
According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute: one in eight cyclists with injuries suffer a brain injury, and two-thirds of the bicycling deaths in the US are from traumatic brain injury.
“Cuts, bruises, and even broken bones will heal, but damage to your neck and spine can be permanent. Even a low-speed fall can result in serious injury,” says Dr. Michael Dolphin, fellowship trained and board certified spine surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists, PC, Davenport
“When a very high percentage of cyclists’ head injuries can be prevented by a helmet, it’s tragic when people ignore this most basic rule.” Dr. Dolphin urges, “The helmet should fit snug and should be worn flat atop your head, not tilted back at an angle. Make sure the chin strap fits securely and that the buckle stays fastened.”
How to Choose the Right Helmet:
Take some time trying on helmets and choose one with the right size and fit. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOC) recommends that a helmet should be:
- Snug. It does not slide from side-to-side or front-to-back.
- Level. It is square on top of your head, covering the top of the forehead. It does not tilt in any direction.
- Stable. The chinstrap keeps the helmet from rocking in any direction. Chinstraps should be replaced if any part of the buckle breaks. Otherwise, a helmet may fly off in an accident. When buying a helmet for your child, be sure to choose a helmet that fits your child now, not one to grow into.
“Young children are particularly vulnerable to head injuries because they have proportionally larger heads and higher centers of gravity, and their coordination is not fully developed,” says Dr. Dolphin.
According to the AAOC, children 5 to 14 years of age have the highest injury rate of all bicycle riders, and bike accidents are
a leading cause of death for children. The Academy recommends the following tips for teaching kids about helmets:
- Teach by example. Adults should always wear helmets when doing activities that have potential for collision.
- Be aware that your child is more likely to wear a helmet if he or she likes the way it looks. Make sure the helmet is visible to car drivers.
- Because a baby’s neck muscles may not be strong enough to support a helmet, do not ride a bike at all with a child under the age of 1 year.
- Children should not wear helmets when they climb trees or play on playground equipment. A helmet may get stuck on a tree or piece of equipment and strangle a child.
Head and neck injuries aren’t just limited to avid cyclists, skateboarders or rollerbladers.
Diving in too-shallow water can be severe, resulting in spinal cord damage and significant lost function or even death. Diving injuries can usually be avoided by checking the water’s depth. “If you can’t see how deep the water is – for instance in a pond or lake,” advises Dr. Dolphin, “don’t dive.”
Wading out into the water to check – seven feet is the absolute minimum for even the tamest diving – is the best way to prevent a skull-first discovery that the water is not deep enough. While home pools usually offer the advantage of see-through water, they seldom have enough depth for safe diving.
When summer calls you to jump into the game, use proper safety equipment, warm up, follow the rules and use some common sense. They’re all parts of staying injury-free.