Back in the day when you were cruising on your Huffy with the handlebar streamers, chances are you rarely thought about sporting a helmet. Today, 48 percent of 5- to 14-year-olds always wear a lid (it’s the law for kids in 21 states), but we still have far to go. That’s because 85 percent of all biking head injuries could have been prevented by a helmet, says Chris Vitale, R.N., injury prevention manager at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Of course, wearing a helmet that fits and is up to current safety standards (all should have a Consumer Product Safety Commission label) is the real key. How to get the safest helmet around:
- Choose a shell. Hard-shell (outermost part is plastic or fiberglass) and soft-shell (made of polystyrene) helmets are both safe choices. The former protect against sharp objects, but tend to be heavier.
- Check the straps. V-straps sit around the ears and buckle under the chin. (You should be able to fit no more than a finger or two under the chin.) “Have your child open his mouth wide. The straps along the face should pull the helmet down in the front,” says Vitale.
- Adjust the size. “The helmet should fit snugly without rocking from side to side or front to back,” says Vitale. It should also sit low enough on her head that you can fit only one or two finger-widths between the eyebrows and the rim.
- Style It. If your kid wants a cool skater helmet, go for it. “Multi-sport helmets are bulkier, but they’re better able to take multiple hits,” says Vitale. Replace a helmet after a fall if the foam inside compresses.
Did you know 85 percent of all biking head injuries could have been prevented by a helmet?
To find the perfect helmet for your child, and to learn how to fit it, visit our slideshow of Hot New Headgear.