Regardless of the number of wheels they have, children love to play with things that move. From the time they can walk, they’re pushing around a stroller. Once they grow into their walking legs, they graduate to a big wheel. Once in school, it’s roller blades, skateboards, scooters and finally a bicycle. Unfortunately, apart from the automobile, bicycles are tied to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product, including trampolines, ladders and swimming pools. Whether your child is riding his or her bike around the block or going to the skate park – a helmet will make him or her safe on the go.
Helmets could prevent an estimated 85 percent of severe head injuries and up to 45,000 head injuries to children who ride bikes each year. Wearing a helmet is the single most effective safety device for protecting a child’s head.
Children should always wear the right helmet designed for each wheeled sport
- When biking, roller skating, inline skating or riding a scooter, a bike helmet should be worn.
- For skateboarding and long boarding, a skateboarding helmet is best.
What parents can do
As a parent, the best way that you can ensure your child wears a helmet is to wear a helmet yourself.
In addition to modeling safe behavior, ensure your child’s helmet is properly fitted and explain each step to your child so that he or she can learn how to do it each and every ride:
- Place the helmet low on the forehead, just above the eyebrows.
- Show your child that the helmet straps should be snug under the chin so the helmet stays in the same position.
- Show your child that the helmet should not move back and forth or side to side.
- Show your child how wearing a helmet on the back of the head (with the forehead well exposed) will not do a good job of protecting the brain.
Teach children about helmet use early and make sure you are consistent in requiring its usage.
Helmets are not the only safety item that can be used to prevent injuries while playing with wheeled toys and non-motorized vehicles. Here are some additional reminders for parents and kids:
- Follow all traffic laws and ride only in designated areas
- Avoid listening to music or texting while riding a bike, skateboarding or rollerblading
- Wear other appropriate protective gear including knee pads, elbow pads, mouth guards and wrist guards.
- Wear properly fitting shoes. Remember to tie shoelaces and don’t wear close-toed shoes.
- Follow the rules of the road established in your community.
Wheeled safety begins at home. Teaching your children the important lessons they need to be safe on the Big Wheel, bicycle, skateboards and beyond is very important. Helmets keep kids safer than any other safety precaution that you can take. Make sure you and your children are practicing good street awareness and always check their equipment to make sure it’s safe too.
Laurence Kleiner, MD, is director of the department of neurosurgery at Dayton Children’s. Dr. Kleiner received his medical degree from Temple University. He completed his fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery/CFS physiology at Brown University School of Medicine. His specialty interests include brain tumors and endoscopy with hydrocephalus.