The tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson in 2009 was a major wake-up call for a lot of people. Ms. Richardson was skiing on a beginner slope in ideal skiing conditions. She was participating in a private skiing lesson with a professional ski instructor. She was laughing and talking after the accident. When she was asked if she wanted to be taken to the local hospital for a check-up, she allegedly declined. How could have such a “small” accident have caused the severe brain damage that led to her death?
Would Natasha Richardson still be alive today if she had worn a safety helmet? It’s impossible to know for certain (if only we could turn back time) but sports injury experts say ski helmets cut the rate of head injuries by 30% to 50%. Research shows proper use of a bike helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury by 88 per cent.
Our awareness about the importance of helmet safety continues to grow, but the question remains: how can we best protect our children? Here are a few guidelines for parents:
Insist that your child wear a safety helmet when skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, skating and biking. Just because legislation making helmets mandatory for ALL sports isn’t yet in force, it doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Ensure that your child’s helmet fits properly. In order for a helmet to do its job, it needs to fit properly and the strap has to be done up. Not sure if your child’s helmet from last year still fits? Wondering whether or not your older child’s safety helmet can be passed down to your younger child? Ask a sales associate in your local sporting goods store to check the fit of your child’s helmet. I’ve always found them more than willing to help and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
As well, ensure the helmet you are purchasing meets CSA (Canadian Standards Association) helmet safety standards. Believe it or not, there are helmets sold in Canada that do not meet minimum safety requirements.
Bike helmets are designed to protect your head against only one crash. After a crash in which the cyclist has hit his or her head, a helmet should be replaced, even if it does not look damaged. You should not rely on a helmet that has been in a crash to protect you from another head injury.
Helmets should also be replaced if they are more than 5 years old. The plastics dry out and may become brittle with age. Also, older helmets may not meet current safety standards, or they may have missing or broken parts.
Is cost a factor preventing you from purchasing a safety helmet for your child? There is a wonderful not-for-profit organization, The Think First Foundation that will provide free helmets to all children in need. For more information, please visit their web site at http://www.thinkfirst.ca/index.aspx.
Your child may be complaining that he/she is too cold under their helmet. This is particularly true of skating and hockey helmets because they usually don’t have adequate insulation. Please keep in mind that wearing a hat under the helmet does not allow the helmet to fit properly. You can always try adding a helmet cover over the helmet. It adds a layer of warmth and will make it FUN for your child to wear his/her helmet when they have an adorable design they love.
Remember that there are different helmet styles for different sports … for a good reason. It’s a proven fact that people tend to fall differently depending on the sport and, therefore, the type of protection required by the different sports helmets varies. In other words, please don’t assume that a bike helmet will protect your child while tobogganing.
Overwhelmed by all of the statistics and the helmet do’s and don’ts? If you are, you are not alone but please keep the following in mind. Once you and your children are in the habit of wearing your safety helmets, it will become second nature. Remember the first few times after car seat belt legislation was passed and you felt uncomfortable with the routine … now you probably don’t think twice about buckling up before pulling out of the driveway. I hated my ski helmet at first but now I feel “naked” without it. The Zany Zebra helmet cover also helps make it a lot more enjoyable to wear.
Author: Karyn Climans, Owner of Tail Wags Helmet Covers Inc. A Canadian company dedicated to encouraging more kids and adults to actually wear their safety helmets.