How to Wear Your Bike Helmet Correctly
If the bicycle riders in your family are wearing helmets, good for you. But, they may only be getting half the protection that helmets could offer them. You need to make sure that their bicycle helmets fit properly.
"Our major goal has been to get helmets on bicycle riders—but we also want to make sure they fit right," says Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., a pediatrician in Seattle.
Riders whose bicycle helmets don't fit right are at twice the risk for serious head injuries, compared with those whose helmets fit properly.
Fit now, not later
Some parents decide to save money by buying helmets that are too large. This is the same money-saving strategy that parents employ when they buy pants or jackets in large sizes, expecting the child to grow into them. But using that same strategy with bicycle helmets is a dangerous gamble.
"Buying a large helmet for use over several seasons is a common mistake parents make that puts children at risk," Dr. Rivara says.
Head injuries account for 43 percent of all deaths among children ages 5 to 9. Bicycling is a leading cause of such injuries. Wearing bicycle helmets reduces the risk of serious head injuries by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.
Getting and fitting the right helmet for the right head can be a challenge, Dr. Rivara says. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, not all stores stock all sizes of helmet.
What to look for
Here are some tips on getting the proper helmet and fit:
Allow time for shopping. Be prepared to go to more than one store if the first store doesn't have the right size.
Consider going to a store where the staff is trained in fitting helmets.
Make sure the helmet has been approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Such a helmet is made to protect the child not only while bike riding, but also while skateboarding, rollerblading or similar activities.
The helmet should be level when viewed from the side. An adult should take the time to adjust a helmet's chinstraps snugly so that the helmet cannot easily be pushed back and forth or side to side. Make sure the junction of the front and back straps is under the ears. If you can tilt a helmet while someone is wearing it, then something's wrong.
Try moving around the foam "sizing pads" inside the helmet.
Make sure the helmet protects the forehead. The helmet should be only one to two finger widths above the eyebrow.
Allow as much as a half-hour to get the proper fit. Don't get caught in the trap of rushing to fit the helmet while your child is eagerly waiting to ride. Fit the helmet in advance. You might even try adjusting it while the child is distracted, perhaps while watching TV.
Reviewed Date: 01-17-2008