For kids and adults, bike helmets are essential safety equipment
Whether it’s down the street to a friend’s house or up the mountain in the Tour de France, bike helmets should be along for the ride with cyclists at all levels.
“Everybody needs a helmet,” said Tupelo pediatrician Ed Ivancic.
Broken bones can be set and mended. Healing the brain is a much trickier proposition.
“Prevention is the only way we can fix it,” said Tupelo neurosurgeon Louis Rosa.
Helmets can’t prevent every bike-related head injury, but they tilt the odds in a rider’s favor. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that helmets decrease the risk of head injury by 85 percent.
Between 2003 and 2012, more than 80 percent of people killed in bike crashes were not wearing helmets, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics. In 21 states, children are required to wear helmets, although Mississippi isn’t one of them. There are no state laws requiring adult cyclists to use helmets.
“We’re convinced bike helmets save lives,” said Rosa and his fellow neurosurgeons, Dr. Elbert White and Dr. Carl Bevering.
Popular culture has come a long way in encouraging helmet uses. On TV shows, particularly those aimed at kids, bike riders are likely to have helmets.
“Ten years ago, helmets weren’t cool, now they are cooler,” Rosa said.
The cycling community around Northeast Mississippi has been strong advocates for bike helmets.
“When you see the Tupelo Cycling Club and other groups, they’re all wearing helmets,” Ivancic said.
So how do you get kids to wear a helmet? Parents wearing them when they go out for a casual ride goes a long way.
“If we want our kids to do things, we have to do them,” Ivancic said.
Even low-speed crashes can crack your cranium.
Dr. Mark Shepherd, an avid cyclist who regularly commutes by bike, learned that a decade ago. It doesn’t matter if it’s a race or a ride home, he doesn’t put a foot to pedal without his helmet.
“The first thing I do is put the helmet on,” Shepherd said.
In 2003, Shepherd was riding home from the hospital one night. Taking a turn from Clayton Road onto the Natchez Trace access, his bike skidded on a patch of gravel and went down.
“I’d probably hit that turn 100 times, even at that time of night,” Shepherd said.
Even with a properly fitted helmet, Shepherd suffered a concussion and blacked out for a short time. He was able to recover enough get up and get home before heading to the ER to be checked out. It took several days for his memory to return to normal.
Without the helmet, Shepherd suspects he would have had an incapacitating injury at best.
“I make my living with my brain,” Shepherd said. “It could have been the end of my career for sure.”