Doctors Advise: Getting a New Bike? Add a New Helmet

For Immediate Release
Dec. 6, 2011   

Contact: Pam Udall  
phone: (512) 370-1382
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Brent Annear
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If you are buying your child a new bike this holiday season, throw in a new helmet too, suggest Texas Medical Association (TMA) physicians. Your child’s old helmet or a sibling’s hand-me-down helmet may not provide the head protection needed, and could be dangerous to your child’s safety.

Even if your child’s old helmet appears in good shape, “there may be unseen dangers that could lessen its benefit,” cautions Craig Manifold, MD, emergency physician and a member of TMA’s Hard Hats for Little Heads Advisory Panel.

“It’s hard to see if a child’s helmet is damaged or not,” he says. When a helmet is involved in a crash, the inside foam crushes to absorb the impact. After the crash, the crushed foam no longer protects properly, even if the outside shell appears unharmed. To guarantee safety, Dr. Manifold says parents should always discard helmets after an accident and purchase a new helmet.

Used or hand-me down helmets also carry safety risks: Worn-out chin straps let helmets sit incorrectly on heads, and ozone and sunlight weaken and crack the outer plastic shell over time. The tiniest of these cracks can split open during a fall, injuring a child’s head. During scorching Texas summers, Dr. Manifold says, it’s important to “keep helmets stored in areas away from extreme heat” to prevent further damage.

Helmet manufacturers recommend replacing helmets every three years, even if they have not been involved in a crash. Inexpensive, new helmets are safe and as effective at preventing a head injury as expensive ones.

Texas physicians work year-round to encourage safe cycling. TMA’s Hard Hats for Little Heads program encourages children and adults to wear helmets. The program has donated more than 100,000 new helmets to Texas children since 1994.

TMA urges children and adults to stay active and safe this holiday season: Wear the appropriate helmet for the appropriate sport, and ensure it is properly fitted and structurally sound.

“Always wear a helmet, not just when bicycling, but also when skateboarding, horseback riding, and participating in other sports,” adds Dr. Manifold. “It can save your life.”

TMA's Hard Hats for Little Heads is sponsored by the association's philanthropic arm, the TMA Foundation, thanks to generous donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and Prudential Financial, and gifts from physicians and their families. TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 45,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. 


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