More than I ever wanted to know about helmets

Consider these ten tips on what I have learned about a wide range of helmets in the past couple of years. I have, both intentionally and unintentionally, received much input on the topic from many sources due to my particular circumstances.

1) All helmets are not created equal. A helmet suitable for a bicycle, for example, is completely different than a helmet for a motorcycle. Even within one type of helmet, there are big differences in the level of brain and head protection offered. A motocross helmet is different than a cruiser helmet. If you have multiple hobbies, then you need multiple helmets.

2) Helmets are not a fashion statement. Some helmets provide absolutely no brain protection, like the “Skull” type helmets worn by some bikers and skateborders.

3) There is no convincing link between the price of a helmet and the amount of protection it provides, although manufacturers and sellers would have us believe otherwise. Still, considering the asset being protected, I would err on the side of caution and buy the best helmet I can afford. For a person who knows nothing about helmets, a $20 Bell bicycle helmet and $$80 Bell motorcycle helmet are good entry-level benchmarks.

4) Most people wear the wrong size helmet or an improperly fitted helmet and this significantly reduces the helmet’s protective capability. For this reason, I strongly recommend that anyone unfamiliar with a specific helmet buy it from a good local retailed who will size and fit it. This is worth way more than the $20 you might save buying the helmet online or elsewhere.

5) Helmets materials deteriorate over time. The deterioration reduces protective ability although the change may not be visible. Helmets should have, at most, a five year lifespan. An helmet older than five years should be destroyed, NOT given to someone else, sent to the thrift shop or saved in the garage just in case someone needs it. Do not let your child play in a 10 year old football helmet unless it has been recently reconditioned.

6) A cracked helmet should be replaced. It is surprising how often a helmet cracks from just a single drop onto a hard surface. In fact, if I followed manufacturers recommendations to immediately replace a dropped helmet regardless of visible wear, I would be buying a new helmet every couple of weeks. As a compromise, I just inspect my helmet frequently. (Most people do not).

7) A person with a history of concussion or brain injury is at heightened risk for subsequent injury and should spend extra effort getting the right helmet.

8) “ATEATT” is a great policy to adapt when it comes to any active sport or hobby. It means “all the equipment, all the time”. It means getting into the habit of always putting on a helmet whenever starting the specific activity, regardless of any other circumstances. This can be a special challenge to a TBI person who is easily distracted. Cognitive therapy helped me develop consistency with this issue.

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Most people have no clue about the possible effects of mild head trauma. Thus the seasonal sighting of beautiful young motorcyclists with hair blowing in the wind riding with their riding helmets safely secured to the side of the seat mounts. (sigh).

10) A ongoing pattern of even mild head injuries (mild concussions) is a very good reason to switch hobbies, regardless of the protective equipment and helmets worn. For example, if my high school football star son has more concussions this fall, I will be forcing him onto the chess team instead. It is not difficult to come up with a list of well-known professional athletes To illustrate this point.


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