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It’s Not Worth The Risk: Why Kids Need To Wear Bicycle Helmets

There were an estimated 64,500 bicycling-related head injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency rooms in 2005.

Nearly 37,000 of these injuries were to children age 14 and younger, according to statistics from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).

Between 1984 and 1988, an average of 962 deaths resulted annually from bicycling-related injuries. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused 62 percent of all deaths resulting from bicycle accidents. Forty percent of deaths occurred in children age 15 and younger. Clearly, children are at the greatest risk of sustaining these injuries. Boys age 10 to 14 are at the highest risk.

"Bicycle helmets provide measurable protection in terms of both reducing the deceleration experienced by a person's head and protecting against direct compressive force," said Arthur Day, MD, FACS, AANS vice president and director of the Cerebrovascular Center and Neurologic Sports Injury Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. "Yet too many children and adults take unnecessary risks and do not wear helmets."

Overall, sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all TBIs among American children and adolescents. A TBI is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.

The term head injury is often used synonymously with TBI, but a head injury may not be associated with neurological deficits, and can refer to a minor bump on the head or be severe enough to cause brain injury.

"Wearing properly fitting safety gear for the sport, whether it is a helmet for bicycling, rollerblading, football, baseball or a host of other sports, is a preventive step that can greatly decrease the risk of suffering a potentially serious or fatal head injury," added Day. Some outdoor fun can too quickly turn into a life-shattering tragedy that could have been avoided in so many cases by just taking proper safety precautions.

Helmets and head gear come in many sizes and styles for many sports and must properly fit to provide maximum protection against head injuries. In addition to other safety apparel or gear, helmets or head gear should be worn at all times for:

  • Baseball and softball (when batting)
  • Cycling
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Horseback Riding
  • Powered Recreational Vehicles
  • Skateboards/Scooters
  • Skiing
  • Wrestling

And, head gear is recommended by many sports safety experts for: martial arts, pole vaulting and soccer.

More information on sports-related head injury and traumatic brain injury is available from the AANS at: under Conditions & Treatments.

A downloadable, color fact sheet on head injury prevention is available at:

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (is a scientific and educational association with more than 6,800 members worldwide.

For more information on the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, visit

© 2006 Health Resources Publishing