Which Helmet for Which Activity? It takes brains to be safe — Be smart and wear a helmet!
Why are helmets so important?
For many recreational activities, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a severe head injury and even save your life.
How does a helmet protect my head?
During a typical fall or collision, much of the impact energy is absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head and brain.
Does this mean that helmets prevent concussions?
No. No helmet design has been proven to prevent concussions. The materials that are used in most of today’s helmets are engineered to absorb the high impact energies that can produce skull fractures and severe brain injuries. However, these materials have not been proven to counteract the energies believed to cause concussions. Beware of claims that a particular helmet can reduce or prevent concussions.
To protect against concussion injury, play smart. Learn the signs and symptoms of a concussion so that after a fall or collision, you can recognize the symptoms, get proper treatment, and prevent additional injury.
Are all helmets the same?
No. There are different helmets for different activities. Each type of helmet is made to protect your head from the kind of impacts that typically are associated with a particular activity or sport. Be sure to wear a helmet that is appropriate for the particular activity you’re involved in.
The protection that the appropriate helmet can provide is dependent upon achieving a proper fit and wearing it correctly; for many activities, chin straps are specified in the standard, and they are essential for the helmet to function properly. For example, the bicycle standard requires that chin straps be strong enough to keep the helmet on the head and in the proper position during a fall or collision. Helmets that meet a particular standard will contain a special label or marking that indicates compliance with that standard (usually found on the liner inside of the helmet, on the exterior surface, or attached to the chin strap). Don’t rely solely on the helmet’s name or appearance, or claims made on the packaging, to determine whether the helmet meets the appropriate requirements for your activity.
Don’t add anything to the helmet, such as stickers, coverings, or other attachments that aren’t provided with the helmet, as such items can negatively affect the helmet’s performance.
Avoid novelty and toy helmets that are made only to look like the real thing; such helmets are not made to comply with any standard and can be expected to offer little or no protection.
How can I tell if my helmet fits properly?
A helmet should be both comfortable and snug. Be sure that the helmet is worn so that it is level on your head—not tilted back on the top of your head or pulled too low over your forehead. Once on your head, the helmet should not move in any direction, back-to-front or side-to-side. For helmets with a chin strap, be sure the chin strap is securely fastened so that the helmet doesn’t move or fall off during a fall or collision.
If you buy a helmet for a child, bring the child with you so that the helmet can be tested for a good fit. Carefully examine the helmet and the accompanying instructions and safety literature.
How long are helmets supposed to last?
Follow the guidance provided by the manufacturer. In the absence of such guidance, it may be prudent to replace your helmet within 5–10 years of purchase, a decision that can be based, at least in part, on how much the helmet was used, how it was cared for, and where it was stored. Cracks in the shell or liner, a loose shell, marks on the liner, fading of the shell, evidence of crushed foam in the liner, worn straps, and missing pads or other parts, are all reasons to replace a helmet. Regular replacement may minimize any reduced effectiveness that could result from degradation of materials over time, and allow you to take advantage of recent advances in helmet protection.
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