Doctors Urge Prevention, Give Bike Helmets

March 3, 2016  

Thousands of children across Texas now have a simple device to keep them out of the emergency department — or a worse fate — thanks to physicians in their communities. Doctors in 144 counties across Texas have given more than 235,000 free bicycle helmets to kids in their hometowns, led by a few standout doctors who champion the cause.

Just last week, doctors from Texas ENT & Allergy in Bryan/College Station gave free helmets to more than 3,500 second-graders from 10 surrounding counties at an event on the campus of Texas A&M University. This marks the doctors’ eighth year of giving helmets to local kids, totaling nearly 22,500 free helmets.

“It’s important for kids to be active, and we want to encourage that,” said Andrew de Jong, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist in College Station who started the event in his city nearly a decade ago and who created the Healthy World Healthy Children Foundation to sustain the event.

Dr. de Jong, who has seen the devastating effects of his young patients not wearing a helmet, said his goal is to prevent that. He teaches kids how a properly fitted helmet can help stop concussions and traumatic head injuries.

Through TMA’s Hard Hats for Little Heads program, Texas physicians urge children to get exercise and to stay safe. The program’s motto is “Get Moving. Stay Safe. Wear a Helmet.” TMA encourages helmet use for all sports on wheels: biking, inline skating, skateboarding, and riding a scooter. TMA urges children and adults to wear the appropriate helmet for the appropriate sport, and ensure it is properly fitted and structurally sound.  

Studies have shown that properly worn bike helmets can prevent up to 85 percent of brain injuries. Head injury is the most common cause of death and serious disability from bike crashes. Dr. de Jong, an avid cyclist, said he wears a helmet every time he rides.

Children in LaGrange benefit from Hard Hats events too.

A.L. Chorens, MD, a trauma surgeon, and the La Grange Breakfast Lions have been urging kids to use helmets at Hard Hats events for more than 10 years during the BP MS 150 bike ride that crosses through the city each year. The group takes advantage of the popular cycling event to give helmets to the city’s first- and second-graders and educate them about helmet safety. They are gearing up for this year’s event, scheduled for April 16-17.

“We want to intervene early,” said Dr. Chorens. “It’s good for the kids and the community when we can prevent head injury.”

Christine Wan, MD, a family physician in Odessa, sponsors Hard Hats events there. “I want to give the kids in my community something tangible to show that we care about them,” she said. She’s joined forces with the Pilot Club of Odessa and the City of Odessa to give more than 2,500 helmets to local kids over the past six years.

These physicians, and many others around the state, enjoy giving back to their communities and igniting that passion with other community organizations that join with them on their events. Several are capitalizing on Brain Injury Awareness Month in March to encourage helmet use in their community. (Reporters: See schedule of March events at the end of the release.)

“Hard Hats is a good way for us to get involved in our communities,” said Dr. Chorens. “And it’s always rewarding to see the kids wearing their helmets as they’re out riding their bikes.”

Other local helmet champions who have hosted multiple helmet giveaways include Adrian Billings, MD, of Alpine; Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO, of Gatesville; and James Mobley, MD, of Portland. Members of the TMA Alliance volunteer organization of TMA physicians’ spouses also frequently host events, including the Tarrant, Lubbock-Crosby-Garza, and Bell county medical society (CMS) alliances. The Texas Academy of Family Physicians and the Texas Pediatric Society, theTexas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also have joined with TMA in this effort by helping their members purchase helmets to host giveaways.

This TMA video describes how a helmet should fit for maximum protection: snugly over the child’s forehead, about one inch above the eyebrows. Wearing a helmet that is too big, too small, old, or unbuckled will not fully protect a head. Also, helmets wear out and should be replaced every few years, or when a child outgrows a helmet.

“Helmets do prevent injuries and can save lives,” said Dr. de Jong. “We’ve reaped the benefits of wearing seat belts, which we now automatically put on when we get in a vehicle. We need to do the same with helmets.”

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 48,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

The Texas Medical Association Foundation, TMA’s philanthropic arm, funds TMA’s Hard Hats for Little Heads program in 2016 with generous gifts from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, an anonymous physician and spouse couple, Make-A-Difference donors, the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, individual physicians and their families, and other friends of medicine.

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Contact:  Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear@texmed.org

Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper@texmed.org

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Last Updated On

April 23, 2018