From: Andrea Orben
We buy backpacks and school supplies to help our children prepare to go back to school, but many of us don’t take a simple measure to help protect their brains on the way to and from school. Throughout the summer I was concerned about the lack of bicycle helmets on recreational cyclists in Columbus, but I am even more disturbed to see so many students helmetless while biking to school.
Having spent the past 10 summers in Columbus, I have witnessed an increase in cyclists with the rejuvenation of downtown and healthy community initiatives like farmers markets, walking and biking paths, and an array of free and affordable activities. It’s obvious that our community works hard to provide active, healthy choices for families and children. Yet it baffles me that we are not more involved in the safety and brain injury prevention of our children on our streets and bike paths.
Two main arguments against bike helmets are that helmets are not necessary to reduce brain injury and helmets discourage cycling. These arguments are without merit. The fact is, helmets reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 85 percent. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that cyclists sometimes crash and that bare-headed cyclists are at a higher risk for brain injury. Just ask any cyclist involved in a crash if they would have preferred wearing a helmet. Of the half-million bicycle-related annual emergency room visits, 26,000 are child and adolescent traumatic brain injuries. It’s no wonder that emergency room doctors are among the strongest advocates for helmet usage.
The other argument is that helmets deter kids from biking. We sometimes hear people ask, “Wouldn’t we rather have children biking than sitting on the sofa playing video games?” Of course! But challenge yourself to question why it must be one or the other?
Bike helmets are an affordable ($10 buys a decent helmet) form of brain-injury prevention. If not for the cost, what is stopping us from protecting our children from unnecessary brain injury? Could it be that our community perpetuates the belief that helmets are unattractive, unfashionable or uncomfortable? Consider months of rehabilitation, headaches, slurred speech and facial scars. Head injuries can be devastating with irreparable brain damage and prolonged disability. I hope it does not take an injury at the expense of one of our children to wake us up.
To protect our children, parents, teachers and school administrators should always wear a helmet and model bike safety. We must also continue to work to improve road safety, increase driver awareness of bikers and expect cyclists to ride safely and follow traffic laws while creating a culture where helmet use is the norm.
Wear a helmet and insist that your children and loved ones do, too. You will never regret choosing to protect your brain and/or having asked a loved one to protect theirs.