Helmets may save your life.
The pitch and some examples
If you are on your bike and you have an accident - a helmet will raise your odds of surviving. A British youth wasn't wearing a helmet when he was hit by a van on the way to work. The immediate result was coma and brain damage. Closer to home, a San Diego teen wasn't either, and after a skateboarding accident, he has had to relearn basic daily skills like walking and catching a ball. On the east coat, another skateboarding accident. Again - no helmet, a lengthy coma, and severe brain trauma.
Resources for lids
If/when one chooses to wear a helmet, the helmet's efficacy will be increased by wearing a helmet that a) fits properly and is worn properly, b) is suited to the activity you are doing and c) is in good shape. The Helmets on Kids website has lots of great specific information to get that lid on your kid in a good way. Here, too. If you want specific information on helmets for a particular sport, this link is also a good place to explore.
As effective as helmets are, they cannot work miracles. A helmet has limitations. The headline in the article about the San Diego youth is misleading: the claim that "the helmet could have prevented brain injury" is incorrect. One can still experience a concussion, or even a more severe brain injury, with a helmet on.
(Michael Schumacher, the German Formula One racer, was skiing with a helmet on in France at the end of 2013 when he fell, hit his head on a jagged rock, and suffered a brain hemorrhage. He is still fighting hard to regain basic skills. On the other hand, Kevin Pearce, US snowboarder and 2010 Olympic hopeful, suffered a TBI from a huge bail on the half-pipe in 2009. He has recovered well and enjoys a high quality of life.)
Some protection is better than none
Many people hear about the limitations of a helmet and say, "Well, why bother then?" Dr. Alan Weintraub, Medical Director of the Craig Hospital's Traumatic Brain Injury Program in Denver, Colorado, says, "You shouldn't doubt wearing that lid for a second. Even though helmets weren't made to prevent concussions, they may reduce their severity. Any protection to the head will lessen the concussive forces to the brain, there's no question". You can read more here.
Shumacher and Pearce are alive because they had helmets on; the three youth at the start of this section? If they had been wearing helmets, their injuries would likely have been less severe.
Science and technology are working hard at improving helmets: There are some manufacturer's who claim their products are better at mitigating brain trauma: yet others disagree.Regardless of how far science and technology has to go in creating a helmet that can prevent every brain injury, please remember that helmets do afford some protection, and we ask that you consider wearing one.
Yet also keep in mind that any helmet is made more effective when used in conjunction with common sense, risk assessment, and good judgment. A helmet doesn't make us invincible. The argument against seat belts years ago was that implementation would increase unsafe driving behaviours to the degree that motor vehicle injuries would increase. But the stats say otherwise. Seatbelts, when used in conjunction with other measures that support safer driving, do reduce fatalities and injuries. The argument for helmets is much the same. They aren't perfect - but when worn in conjunction with responsible engagement, they do a good job of reducing the severity of brain injuries.
There will always be people that push the boundaries and intentionally consume the risk. That's their choice. I just want to make sure we all understand that it is a choice. If you are choosing to negate the protective capacity of helmets or other pieces of personal protective equipment, you might someday experience lows along with those highs. So just be aware of that and choose mindfully. The headline in a ski blog post my husband forwarded me said, "Wear a helmet; but ski like you aren't". That is prevention. That is sustainable. That is a philosophy grounded in a desire to ski for a lifetime.
But what about Europe???
Ahhhh, Europe...(this is actually a Portland, Oregon Mom, but still)!
There are lots of opinions and even some facts to inform yourself on the differences in attitudes, practice and infrastructure between Europe and North America. It IS mandatory to wear bicycle helmets in BC, but the police have other priorities besides running around handing out tickets for this infraction...so ultimately, you get to decide what is best for you and yours.
"I wear a helmet every time I ride." / "The helmet logic is flawed. I don't wear one."