Bicycle Basics: Types of Helmets and Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury

by VickyRN Asst. Admin

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All cyclists should wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet every time they ride. A helmet is the single most effective protection against head injury resulting from a bicycle crash. This article discusses the different types of bicycle helmets and how they can protect the cyclist from traumatic brain injury.

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    Bicycle Basics: Types of Helmets and Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury

    Traumatic brain injury (tbi) is a serious public health problem that affects the health and well-being of millions of people throughout the u.s. Tbi is defined as a head injury (bump, blow, jolt, or penetration to the brain) that disrupts brain function, causing disability or death. Every year, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a tbi with an annual cost of $9 to $10 billion. The second leading cause of tbi is the head striking a hard surface as a result of motor vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian-vehicle incidents. A cyclist may lose control and crash, with a blow to the head against an unyielding ground surface. Or, a cyclist may be hit by a car, causing serious damage to the brain. Head injury is by far the greatest risk posed to cyclists, resulting in three-quarters of deaths. Every year in the u.s., approximately 900 people die in bicycle accidents, usually from head injury. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of bicycle fatalities occur as a result of collision with motor vehicles. Statistics reveal that 97 percent of those killed were not wearing helmets.

    All cyclists should wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet every time they ride. A helmet is the single most effective protection against head injury and fatality resulting from a bicycle crash. Research shows that helmets are 85 percent effective in protecting the brain from the effect of an impact. Helmeted riders are over 33 times less likely to sustain a head injury. For safety's sake, helmets are an absolute must.

    Unfortunately, the majority of states – 29, to be exact – have no bicycle helmet law. Twenty-one states have helmet laws for bicyclists below a certain age, generally age 16. However, many localities require helmets for some or all bicyclists. Helmets work by absorbing the kinetic shock of an injury, reducing the trauma that reaches the brain. To adequately protect the brain from injury, helmets should fit securely. Helmets should fit level on the head, positioned low on the forehead (just one or two fingerbreadths above the eyebrow). The straps should form a "v" around the ears. The helmet should be snug, with the chinstraps buckled and tight enough so no more than two fingers can fit between the chin and the strap. The wiggle room between the helmet and the head should only allow for one finger. When properly adjusted, the helmet should not move more than 1 inch in any direction. If a helmet has been involved in an incident where the head hit a hard surface, it should be replaced.

    It's important to choose the helmet that's best suited to your style of riding. Helmets come in a plethora of types, designs, and color schemes. First of all, make sure the helmet is made for bicycling and meets the consumer product safety commission standards for bicycle use. It should not be another type of helmet, such as one used for skate-boarding. Skateboard helmets have a round, bucket shape that covers more of the back of the head than the typical bicycle helmet. Secondly, the bicycle helmet should fit correctly and be comfortable.

    Different types of bicycle helmets include:


    • Road helmets - feature an elongated and aerodynamic design, complete with plenty of air vents. These helmets are lightweight and can be used for all types of road cycling, from casual paths to road racing.
    • Commuter/ sports helmets - these are a little more rounded than road helmets, and also less expensive. These are a good option for the casual cyclist or standard bicycle commuter.
    • Mountain bike helmets - offer a visor and enhanced protection around the back and sides of the head for mountain terrain biking. They look like motorcycle helmets. These helmets cover more head area than other types of helmets, with little venting, and come in both cap and full-face design with a chinbar. They offer a snug, customized fit.
    • Time trial helmets - designed to help the rider go faster. These helmets feature a teardrop shape with minimal venting to reduce air drag.


    References
    :

    Bicycle-related traumatic brain injury
    Brain injury prevention
    Demonstrating bicycle helmet effectiveness: a how-to guide - nhtsa
    Helmet laws
    How many people have tbi?
    The types of bicycle helmets
    Traffic safety facts: bicyclists and other cyclists
    Traumatic brain injury
    Youth concussion education packet
    What are the leading causes of tbi?
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 10, '12
    CaptainPC, Joe V, herring_RN, and 1 other like this.
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    VickyRN is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is faculty in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.

    VickyRN joined Mar '01 - from 'Under the shadow of His wings...'. VickyRN has '16' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds'. Posts: 12,043 Likes: 6,411; Learn more about VickyRN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    4 Comments so far...

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    When I was employed in the LTC setting two years ago, I once provided care to a comatose young man who had been struck by a car while riding his bicycle. After six weeks in an acute care hospital, he was discharged to a LTC facility because there was nothing more that the hospital could do for him.

    He died within a few weeks of being admitted to the nursing home. Truly sad.
    herring_RN likes this.
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    Quote from TheCommuter
    When I was employed in the LTC setting two years ago, I once provided care to a comatose young man who had been struck by a car while riding his bicycle. After six weeks in an acute care hospital, he was discharged to a LTC facility because there was nothing more that the hospital could do for him.

    He died within a few weeks of being admitted to the nursing home. Truly sad.
    So tragic. The students and I took care of a very pleasant middle-aged gentleman on the rehab unit who had been cycling and struck from behind (at high speed) by a car. He suffered extensive damage to his legs and arms, but thankfully no brain damage.
    herring_RN likes this.
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    I don't know how to ride a bike but wearing a top rated riding helmet saved my noggin a few years ago when I had a involuntary dismount from my horse. Keep your receipts when you buy a helmet too. Most helmets are single impact but some companies will replace your helmet for a small % provided you send in your old one for research purposes.
    VickyRN likes this.
  7. 0
    Quote from tothepointeLVN
    I don't know how to ride a bike but wearing a top rated riding helmet saved my noggin a few years ago when I had a involuntary dismount from my horse. Keep your receipts when you buy a helmet too. Most helmets are single impact but some companies will replace your helmet for a small % provided you send in your old one for research purposes.
    Good advice! So glad you had the helmet on and that you are OK. Head injury (such as the one suffered by an unhelmeted President Ronald Reagan when he fell from his horse) has been identified as one of the risk factors of Alzheimer's disease.


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