by Potomac Pedalers Staff
Helmets cut the risk of head injury in bicycle accidents by over
80%. But children who wear bicycle helmets that do not fit properly are
nearly twice as likely to suffer from a head injury in an accident as
those with better fitting helmets, a new study suggests.
Younger children and boys are less likely to wear proper fitting
helmets, according to the report in the journal Injury Prevention. And
wearing a helmet that is too big appears to be particularly hazardous.
"Although bicycle helmets are effective in preventing head and
brain injury, some helmeted individuals nevertheless sustain head
injury," report Dr. Frederick Rivara of the Harborview Injury Prevention
Research Center, Seattle Washington and colleagues. "One of the
possible reasons may be poor fit of the helmet on the head."
Out of a sample of 1,718 helmeted bicycle riders who were
involved in an accident, Rivara and colleagues took a closer look at 28
children aged 2 to 14 who sustained a head injury and 98 children who
When the researchers measured the helmet and the child's head,
as well as made a plaster cast of the youngster's skull, they found
those with a poor fitting helmet were nearly twice as likely to end up
with a head injury as those with a properly fitting helmet.
Most often, the helmet was too wide. Almost half of the children
with head injuries had a helmet that was two centimeters (almost an
inch) or more wider than their heads.
A helmet that tilted backwards on the head increased the risk of
head injury by 50% compared with a helmet centered on the head.
Overall, 6% of children had a helmet fit that was fair or poor, 13% had a
helmet that tilted backwards, and in 4% of cases, the helmet had come
off the head on impact, tripling the risk of injury.
"Helmets may need to be redesigned, particularly for the younger
age group, to fit better, in particular by decreasing its width,"
concludes Rivara's team. They also recommend the development of a
measuring system, such as the use of head calipers, to be used in stores
to ensure that the correct size of helmet is being purchased.
SOURCE: Injury Prevention, 1999; 5: 194-197.