Wise Up Bone Head
Bicycle Helmets and Head Injuries
While on a much needed family vacation, Larry and his wife ventured off for a bicycle ride around the resort. Larry is not sure what happened, but he woke up in the hospital with a severe wrist fracture and a concussion. Larry was not wearing a helmet and his wife reported that he went over the handlebars during a low speed turn. Surgical repair of the wrist and some therapy restored his ability to grip, lift, and carry, but his mental capacity has remained impaired since the fall. He has been unable to return to work secondary to memory deficits and problems with planning. Larry has difficulty remembering the names of his coworkers and neighbors. His wife reports he is more emotional and that she cannot let him drive without a navigator to assist in the return home. Every physical therapist has a number of these stories.
If you or your children ride a bike, take the time to read. Buckle Up a Helmet to Save a Life by Jane Brody in the October 23, 2017 issue of the New York Times. Jane recounts her own helmet free tumble from a bicycle and the statistics on bicycle head injuries.
No helmet bike riders tell me they are “extra careful” and that they “stay off busy roads”. They are assuming that people fall off bikes solely to due to pilot error. Bike accidents happen because of bad roads, distracted car drivers, and more recently, other bike riders. People driving trucks, cars, and other bicycles are not looking for bicyclists. They are on autopilot–listening to the radio, talking on the phone, and texting. You need a helmet now more than ever.
As a physical therapist, I get to work with individuals who have suffered closed head injuries. Nothing creates a more sudden and long lasting change in your world than an impact to your cranium. It does not take that much in the way of force to permanently alter the way you move, think, react to stress, and function during the day. If in the past you did not use a helmet because of the appearance, I urge you reconsider. An eternity of cognitive impairment and an inability to find your way home should be more concerning than your bicycle style.
* New York Times, Buckle Up a Helmet to Save a Life, Jane Brody, October 23, 2017 issue. Read the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/well/buckle-up-a-helmet-to-save-a-life.html?_r=0
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
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