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Neuroscience For Kids

Deck the Halls with...Helmets?

by Ellen Kuwana, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer
December 4, 2009

If a bicycle helmet is on your holiday wish list, you'll be happy to know that more expensive helmets are not necessarily safer than the less expensive helmets. An impact study by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute found that $20 helmets performed about the same as $150 helmets.

According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, in order to work properly and protect your head, a helmet — regardless of its price — must be fit correctly to your head. As everyone's head is different, the wearer must adjust the helmet to fit low and snug on the head. Helmets should fit as low as possible on the head, so remove any thick padding from the top inside, and use the thinnest pad there or none at all. The sides can be padded so that the fit is snug without being too tight. The helmet should be level and the front edge should be just above your eyebrows (or a bit above the frames of eye glasses). When you look up, you should just be able to see the helmet's rim.

helmet The straps should be adjusted so that the Y formed by the two straps fits just under your ear. The chin strap should be tight enough that when you open your mouth, you feel the helmet pull down slightly. Adjust the Y straps first, then the chin strap. Many bicycle shops and non-profit safety organizations will help you get a proper fit. This can take up to 20 minutes, so be patient. The way to test if a helmet has a good fit is to pretend to walk into a wall--the helmet's front edge should hit before your nose, and the helmet should not tip back, which would expose your forehead to damage. If the helmet tips back, the rear side straps need to be tightened.

After fitting the helmet, shake your head gently. Then take your hand and push back on the front of the helmet. If it slides back more than an inch, exposing the forehead, the helmet needs to be adjusted again for a better fit. Some straps lock in place with a plastic clip; others do not. For the ones that do not lock in place, a rubber band can be wound around the strap just below the adjustment slider in order to keep the straps in place. Be sure to check the fit of the helmet each time you use it.

So, regardless of what you spend on a bicycle helmet for loved ones, your gift will protect their heads.

cautionCaution: do not let wear a bicycle helmet while climbing trees or monkey bars! The helmet may get caught and its straps may be wrapped around your neck.

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Copyright © 1996-2009, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington