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Helmets for Kids - A Good Fit
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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 did not.

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.

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