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When you ride a bicycle, avoid potholes and wear a helmet. Almost 50% of single bicycle accidents are caused by defects in roads (1), and the most common cause of serious injury is not wearing a helmet.

More than one third of all patients admitted to the hospital for injuries from bicycle accidents have severe head injuries and more than one fourth suffer permanent brain damage or death (2). Helmets can prevent more than 80% of the 247 deaths and 184,000 head injuries suffered by children in bicycle injuries in the United States each year (3,5).

Your brain is encased in a sack of fluid. When you hit your head, your brain bounces around in its sack of fluid, hitting one side of your skull and then hitting the other. Woodpeckers don't suffer concussions because their brains don't bounce around. Helmets are supposed to fit your head the same way that a woodpecker's skull hold its brain solidly in place. They should fit tightly around your head so that your head does not bounce around in the helmet. All helmets should fit snugly and contain a liner that fits tightly around your head and be held in place by a chin strap that holds your helmet firmly on your head. If you can move the helmet when you hold your head still, it doesn't fit. Also wear light helmets, those heavier than 1500 grams increase your chances of breaking your neck in an accident (4). Helmets are evaluated by two standards: the Snell Memorial Foundation 1984 standard and the American National Standards Institute. Check these ratings to make sure that your helmet meets these standards.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News

1) P Nyberg, U Bjornstig, LO Bygren. Road characteristics and bicycle accidents. Scandinavian Journal of Social Medicine 24: 4(DEC 1996): 293-301.

2) J Zentner, H Franken, G Lobbecke. Head injuries from bicycle accidents. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery 98: 4 (NOV 1996): 281-285.

3) DM Sosin, JJ Sacks, KW Webb. Pediatric head injuries and deaths from bicycling in the United States. Pediatrics 98: 5 (NOV 1996): 868-870.

4) CJ Konrad, TS Fieber, GK Schuepfer, HR Gerber. Are fractures of the base of the skull influenced by the mass of the protective helmet? A retrospective study in fatally injured motorcyclists. Journal of Trauma - Injury Infection and Critical Care. 41: 5 (NOV 1996): 854-858.

5) C Peekasa, JF Kraus. Estimates of injury impairment after acute traumatic injury in motorcycle crashes before and after passage of a mandatory helmet use law. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 29: 5 (MAY 1997): 630-636.

June 4th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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