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Neuroscience For Kids

bike helmet Educating Brains about Helmet Use
November 21, 2012

You've probably heard it a thousand times: "Put on your helmet!" We know that wearing bicycle helmets reduces that chance of a head injury, but do educational programs increase the use of helmets? A study by researchers at Georgia Health Science University suggests that programs that include a discussion about brain function and anatomy do promote helmet use in children.

In the new study, the research team divided children (5-18 years old) into a control group and an intervention group. Children in the control group each received a bicycle helmet and bicycle safety educational materials. Children in the intervention group also received a helmet and the education materials, but they also attended a special 30-45 minute session that included:

  1. Discussion of basic brain function with information about the senses, decision making, thinking and hormones.
  2. Discussion of basic brain anatomy using brain and skull models.
  3. Demonstration showing how the brain and an egg are similar.
  4. Demonstration showing a Jell-O brain mold.
  5. Simulation of a brain injury.
  6. Demonstration of the proper way to wear a helmet.
bike riders helmet use

Prior to the experiment, only about one-third of the children owned a helmet. Of the 58 students in the intervention group, only 5.2% wore a helmet every time they rode a bike; only 12.9% of the 62 children in the control group wore a helmet every time they rode a bike. Adults were not very good role models: the children reported that when they rode bikes with adults, only 6.6% of the adults wore helmets.

One month after the education program, the researchers asked the children about their use of bike helmets. In the control group, 82.8% of children reported that they wore their helmets every time they rode their bikes; in the intervention group, 92.6% of the children reported that they wore their helmets every time they rode their bikes. The researchers also followed up with the children three months after the education program and found a small reported decrease in helmet use by children in the control group (80.0%) and a small reported increase in helmet use (96.2%) by children in the intervention group.

This study demonstrates that just a brief education program can promote the use of helmets. Sure, you have to own a helmet to use it in the first place, but extra discussion about the brain seems to encourage children to wear their helmets for a longer time.

Reference and further information:

  1. Barnes, V.A., Maria, B.L., Caldwell, A.L. and Hopkins, I., Prevention of traumatic brain injury in youth and adolescents, Journal of Child Neurology, 10.1177/0883073812464272, 2012.
  2. Helmet Use - Kids vs. Parents - Neuroscience for Kids
  3. Helmet Injuries on the Increase - Neuroscience for Kids
  4. Police Enforcement of Helmet Laws 1 - Neuroscience for Kids
  5. Police Enforcement of Helmet Laws 2 - Neuroscience for Kids

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