Gear up, strap a helmet on for safety

Spring is here - the time when millions of Americans are heading outdoors to take part in their favorite sports activities. Getting ready for fun also means using the right gear and wearing a helmet each time you jump on a bike or skateboard, go for a horseback ride, play baseball or put on your in-line skates.

Not all helmets are created equal. Different activities require different helmets. Helmets are available for every season’s sports. Each type of helmet is designed to protect your head from the impact that can take place in the particular sport for which it is intended.

A helmet should be labeled to indicate it is certified by a reputable standards and testing organization - American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Snell or American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International.

As long as it’s certified and new, let kids pick out their own helmets. If they think a helmet looks cool, they’ll be more likely to wear it when you’re not around.

As bicycle riding is the most common sport among kids, the largest number of youngsters’ emergency room visits stem from bike accidents.

Properly fitted bike helmets could reduce the risk of bike-related brain injuries by 88 percent; however, only one out of five cyclists ages 5 to 14 usually wears a helmet.

Each year in the United States, more than 100 children die from bicycle-related injuries, and more than a quarter million are treated in emergency rooms. Nearly half have traumatic brain injuries.

Safe Kids reminds parents and caregivers:

• Make sure the helmet fits and your kids know how to put it on correctly. In a crash, the risk of head injury is doubled if the helmet is worn incorrectly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps always must be buckled, but not too tightly. Safe Kids recommends the "Eyes, Ears and Mouth" test: The rim of the helmet should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows, the straps should form a "V" just below the ear lobe, the buckle should be flat against the skin and the strap should feel snug when the rider’s mouth is open.

• Remember that bike helmets are for riding bikes and other human-powered wheels. Kids should not wear bike helmets on the playground (where straps can get caught on equipment and cause injury) or for activities that require specialized helmets (such as skiing or football). Bike helmets are appropriate for roller skating, in-line skating and skateboarding without aerial stunts, and for use with non-motorized scooters. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends children younger than 12 wear a bike helmet while sledding.

• When in doubt, get help. The sales staff at any bicycle shop or outdoor recreation store should be able to provide expert advice on fitting and adjusting bikes and helmets. For more information, visit


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