Put a Lid On It

By: Pat Ross

Kids across the city are hitting the road on bikes, skateboards, in-line skates and scooters. But what about their helmets?

For every wheeled activity, helmets are a must. By law in Ontario, kids under the age of 18 are required to wear them while riding bikes. Even though the same rule does not apply to other activities or to cyclists aged 18 and over, head injuries don’t discriminate. Bike crashes happen past age 18 and serious mishaps occur on scooters and in-line skates.

When the wheels are spinning fast, bare heads are always vulnerable. At the same time, it’s important to realize covered heads aren’t always adequately protected. It’s not enough for kids to run out the door, plop on helmets and wheel away. If those helmets don’t fit well, aren’t properly strapped on or aren’t appropriate for the activity, kids are still at risk.

“Head injuries are the number one cause of serious injury and death to kids on bicycles,” according to Parachute, a national organization dedicated to injury prevention. And: “A properly fitted helmet can decrease the risk of serious head injury by over 85 percent.” It’s a similar story for helmets used in skateboarding, inline skating and scooter riding. When they’re worn correctly, helmets can greatly reduce the risk of serious injury.

Time to do a helmet safety check

It’s a good time now, while the bikes are still in the garage, to get your own head in gear and make sure your whole family is properly equipped to play and go safely. Here’s what you can do-helmet-wise-to put the best protection in place.

1. Buy yourself a helmet and wear it. Your youngsters will follow your lead.

2. Get the kids the correct helmets for their chosen activities. (You need different helmets for skateboarding, hockey and cycling.)

3. Be sure each helmet fits your child. Chin and side straps should be snug and the helmet should rest two finger-widths above the eyebrows. The following questions and answers, excerpted from the Parachute website, raise some other important points to remember:

Why is it important that a helmet have an approved standards label?
An approved standards label certifies that the helmet design has been tested by the manufacturer to protect your head. Check for this label inside or on the helmet.

What types of helmet standards are available in Canada? Helmets sold in Canada are certified by CSA (Canadian Standards Association), CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), Snell or ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials).

What is a multi-sport helmet? This means the helmet meets safety standards for more than one activity. Be sure the multi-sport helmet shows clearly what activities it has been tested for. If you have any questions, contact the manufacturer.

When should I replace a bike helmet? Bike helmets should be replaced after five years or after a crash in which the cyclist has hit their head.

Is it safe to use a second-hand helmet? No, it is not a good idea to buy a helmet second-hand. You may not know how old the helmet is or if the helmet has been in a crash.

My child’s helmet is missing parts. Is it ok to use? No, your child should never use a helmet that has missing parts. Make sure all of the straps, adjusters and fasteners on your child’s helmet are secure and in working order.

Can my child wear his baseball hat under his helmet? No. Anything that could change the way your child’s helmet fits—such as baseball hats, big hair clips and headphones—should never be worn under a helmet. Ponytails should be worn low on the neck.

See www.parachutecanada.org for more details and more helpful information about injury prevention.

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