Helmets: A Safety Consideration

OSWEGO, NY – This Christmas, many of us got ice skates, sleds, scooters, bicycles, skis etc.

Some of us are beginners at these pastimes and some of us have been involved for years.

All of us need to protect against head injury.

spinal_columnThe brain is amazing and resilient yet delicate.

Accidents can be very serious. Helmets are a great protection.

It is important to use proper equipment regardless of experience levels.

Great examples can be seen every day, even professional skiers and speed skaters wear helmets in addition to hockey players.

The brain is a complex structure that is protected by muscles of the face and scalp, bone and a wrapping known as Dura Mater (has the appearance of saran wrap only thinner) as well as cerebrospinal fluid.

Although it is resilient, it is, at the same time, vulnerable to brain trauma.

The brain is the center of the nervous system.

It contains the sensory and motor systems. It contains the autonomic and the voluntary systems.

These control centers reside in different areas of the brain.

This description is a gross over-simplification, but it helps you to understand why the brain is so delicate and vulnerable to being damaged.

You may have heard of a person who has had an accident and cannot speak, but they can move, think and carry on all other bodily functions, or a person who is blind but can, similarly, carry on other bodily functions.

This is because trauma was delivered to a certain area of his brain, and that area was the control center for speech.

The same is true of the other areas and the functions they control.

When a person falls and strikes their head causing a traumatic injury, the extent of the injuries and the organ involvement depends on the centers that are damaged.

All it takes is one incident. It is with that realization that I now wear a helmet even for general skating.

It is my intent to encourage you to think about your safety and the safety of your children if they are engaged in sports where there is risk of impact.

The same is true of roller blades, scooters, skiing, motorcycling, etc.

The head must be protected.

Research is compelling in the area of brain injury.

The area is vast. I will consider an occurrence which is common, the concussion.

Many accidents in sports result in concussions.

Many times patients do not realize they have suffered a concussion, or they do not seek medical help.

Many people do not consider concussions serious; however they can have serious implications down the road.

If you suspect a concussion, you should seek medical help immediately.

The Brain Injury Resource Center  states: “An estimated 300,000 sports related traumatic brain injuries, TBIs, of mild to moderate severity, most of which can be classified as concussions, (i.e., conditions of temporary altered mental status as a result of head trauma), occur in the United States each year. The proportion of these concussions that are repeat injuries is unknown; however, there is an increased risk for subsequent TBI among persons who have had at least one previous TBI.“

This is known as Second Impact Syndrome.

Repeated brain injuries, over time from months to years, make the brain more vulnerable.

A subsequent injury can result in cognitive and neurological deficiencies and can even be fatal.

Helmets do not always prevent traumatic brain injury, but they can help in the case of a fall or hit.

Helmets have prevented a great many injuries from becoming life-altering.

There are many reasons people do not use helmets: too hot, teasing by peers, uncomfortable etc.

We adults, parents and coaches, need to insist our children protect themselves from harm. We also need to set good examples.

Many standards have been put in place for different helmets to insure safety.

This was initiated by The Consumer Products Safety Council.

There is also the Snell Safety Council, ANSI and The American Society for Testing and Materials, which have tested helmets.

Some have standards more stringent than others.

There are different designs for different sports.

We must do our homework to ensure that a pleasurable sports activity remains safe.

Athletes of all levels have to become aware of the risks in their own individual sports before participating.

Helmets have certain specifications according to the sport, because there are different types of accidents, different areas of vulnerability and thus different helmet designs for each sport.

Getting the proper fit is also crucial.

Some sites that may help you in finding the right helmet and getting the right fit are:

American Chiropractic Association Bike Fit Basics (includes helmets)
Snell Helmet Safety Standards http://www.smf.org/stds.html


Quick Answers to Your Helmet Questions http://www.bhsi.org/quick.htm

Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute http://www.helmets.org/links.htmElectric

Scooter Helmets


United Consumer Products Safety Commission http://search.cpsc.gov/query.html?col=pubweb&charset=iso-8859-1&qt=helmets

Chiropractic is not just about the treatment of injuries.

It is about the prevention of injuries and health promotion.

It is my hope that this article and my reflections will raise your level of awareness, and keep someone from suffering needlessly.

Dr. McCaffrey practices at McCaffrey Chiropractic, 184 W. Fourth St., Oswego. Phone 342-3877.