May 5, 2010

Lids for Kids

Summer is almost here! The weather is warming up and beaches and parks are starting to be populated with Manitobans enjoying outdoor activities like riding a bicycle, rollerblading and skateboarding. While getting active is always good for the body, all these activities can pose a risk for head and brain injuries unless proper protection is worn.

Did you know that helmets reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85% and brain injury by up to 88%? Use of a certified bicycle helmet by riders and passengers of all ages is recommended on public roads, sidewalks, and bicycle paths.

"An average of two children are treated for bicycle injuries every day during summer months," says Shawn Feely, of IMPACT, the injury prevention program of the Winnipeg Health Region. That's why the program is currently working on a bike helmet campaign that will be launched in the coming weeks. "Presently 60% of children do not wear helmets when cycling."

Fast Fact: Ninety percent of the children who visit the emergency room for a cycling injury are between five and 14 years old.

It's important to get children in the habit of wearing their helmet as early as possible. From the moment they explore their new tricycle to the milestone of training wheel removal, it is essential to instill helmet safety in children.

Not only does your child need to understand why he or she has to wear a helmet, it is important to educate yourself on the types of helmets that are age, size and activity appropriate. It is very important that parents wear bike helmets - as well to protect themselves and to model safe behaviour.

The DO's of helmet safety

Replace a bike helmet if it has been in a crash, or is even slightly damaged. The structure of most helmets are not designed to protect you a second time. A helmet should be well maintained and not thrown around or tampered with. While a hand-me-down may be cost effective, depending on the child's age and usage, it may not be your safest option.

Buy helmets for skateboard and rollerblading that provide coverage to the back of the head. Falling is more common in these activities, and it is important to protect against backward falls and multiple impacts. Not sure which helmet for which sport? Click here for tips.

Make sure the helmets you are purchasing have been safety tested and meet the required guidelines. Helmets should meet either CSA, ANSI, SNELL or ASTM standards. This will be indicated on the packaging and may also be on the label inside the helmet.

Ensure helmet straps are properly fastened. All straps should lie flat, not twisted or tangled. The helmet should be snug; but not too tight, but not able to move around the head freely.

Your most important fit tips:

  • Two fingers width from helmet to eyebrow

  • The straps form a V around your ears

  • The chin strap should be tight enough to allow only one finger between the strap and chin.

    Not sure what exactly a good fit is? Click here for tips.

Remember that other summer sports like BMX cycle, football and lacrosse require face protectors on helmets because of the level of contact between players and equipment. Before you buy your helmet, make sure you have a face protector to keep you safe.

Make sure your hair is the only thing between you and your helmet. Leave hair loose or secure with a hair tie at the base of the neck. Avoid wearing hats or other headwear underneath or on top of your helmet.

Use the right helmet for the right sport. A cycling helmet isn't designed for skateboarding or rollerblading. Helmets are manufactured differently for every activity. Look for helmets marked "multi-sport," ONLY these helmets can meet safety standards for more than one activity.

Look at replacing your helmet every five years. The materials they're made of can break down over time. A newer helmet will keep you safer.

Talk to your child and explain why helmet safety is important. Helmets come in a variety of styles and colours. To encourage your kids to think safety, have them pick out their own. Remember that the goal is for them to enjoy their summer while staying safe.

Every year approximately 60 cyclists between the ages of five and 14 years are injured cycling on public roads. After you strap on the RIGHT helmet make sure to instill in kids and teens the street-safe rules of the road:

  1. Look both ways before crossing a street or an intersection. Make eye contact with the driver before crossing.

  2. Cross roads at corners, crosswalks, and intersections whenever possible.

  3. Wear vibrant colours, lights and reflectors to ensure that drivers can see you at greater distances and in darker lighting.

  4. Sidewalks are safe places for young children to cycle, but for older children cycling on the street, proper arm signaling is essential.

  5. Children under the age of 10 should not ride their bikes on the road. They do not have the physical and thinking skills to handle their bikes in traffic. Children over the age of 10 need practice before they can ride on the road.

  6. Walkie-talkies, a buddy-system or a cell phone are helpful when venturing far from home or without parents. Using a cell phone while driving your bike isn't safe. Pull aside, stop and then make your call or send your text.

    ThinkFirst Canada's Bicycling Injury Prevention Tips

    Help Your Kids Have a Safe Summer Ride

    Cycle Safely

Remember, adults need helmets too. The best way to take care of your children is to take care of yourself. Set a good example for your kids and prevent a serious head injury: that's smart parenting and smart summer sports.

Visit for more information on helmet safety, Sport Smart programs, head injury prevention, and concussion awareness.

Injuries Associated with Bicycles

Manitoba's Low-Cost Bike Helmet Initiative

Ride Safe

Bike Safety

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