Medical Monday: Doctor’s prescription: Wear your helmet

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Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part series. The second part deals with bicycle safety.

Cycling and other sports on wheels can be risky. But there is a little piece of equipment that can drastically reduce your chances of suffering a serious head injury: a helmet.

“Hitting your head, even once, can cause brain damage which can increase your risk for headaches and problems sleeping, learning and balance,” said Dr. Michelle Jimerson, family physician. in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical team. staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “There can be a lot of long-term consequences. “



By the numbers

Helmets make the difference: Studies have shown that if you are in a bicycle accident, wearing a helmet can reduce your risk of brain damage by as much as 80%.

Each year, more than 500,000 Americans are treated in the emergency room for bicycle-related injuries. About 700 will die from these injuries, but three-quarters of these deaths would be avoided if the rider had worn a helmet.



And, each year, approximately 26,000 children end up in emergency departments with head trauma resulting from cycling.

“These aren’t small numbers – it’s a big deal,” Jimerson said.

Helmets are effective for all age groups, including young children and adults, and also provide protection if a cyclist is struck by a motor vehicle.

And helmets provide protection against facial damage and scarring that can result from a fall.

Who should wear a helmet?

Regardless of your age, if you ride a bike, skateboard, or kick scooter (anything that has wheels) you should wear a helmet.

“Even if you’re just walking down the sidewalk or down the street, if you weigh the risks and the benefits, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a helmet, only the benefits,” Jimerson said.

Jimerson also stresses that it is important for parents to make sure not only that their children are wearing helmets, but that they are wearing them themselves.

“As parents, we want to set a good example for our children,” Jimerson said. “And crazy things happen – it’s not like you have to go fast to fall off your bike. A squirrel might run past you, or you might look at your child and stumble on something.

What should I do if I fall?

If you fall off your bike and hit your head, it’s a good idea to contact your health care provider.

“Even a mild concussion can have atypical or delayed symptoms,” Jimerson said. “If you fall and hit your head and have symptoms of hitting your head, including headache, dizziness, increased fatigue, vision problems, or neck pain, you should be evaluated. “

If you have any significant injuries, problems, or symptoms, such as severe headache, nausea, and vomiting, seek help immediately.

Where can I get a helmet?

Your local bicycle and sporting goods stores are great resources for helmets. If cost is an issue, some online programs offer free or discounted headsets.

Make sure your helmet is snug and in good condition. Helmets should be replaced every five to ten years and after any accident where you hit your head.

And once you have your helmet, don’t forget the most important step – wear it.

“People do a lot of things to keep themselves safe, like wearing seatbelts, going to the doctor, wearing sunscreen, having their colonoscopy – helmets should be the norm, too,” Jimerson said. “A fall can happen to anyone at any time. If you have a helmet, put it on your head.

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be contacted at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.


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