A word from Sumter Cycling: Protect your head with a quality helmet

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, July 28, 2016

As the start of the new school year approaches, additional traffic, both vehicular and bicycle, will increase as well. Protecting your “noggin” is one of the smartest things you can do to minimize your risk of serious injury or death. A 2016 study published in BMC Emergency Medicine reported that more bicycle related head injuries (286,978) were treated in emergency rooms in the United States than any other sport, including football, between 2007 and 2011.
Another study further highlights the importance of bike helmets: according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, of those killed in bicycle related accidents in 2014, sixty percent were not wearing a helmet.
Trauma to the head can result in concussions, skull fractures, and bleeding inside the brain. These reasons should be enough to motivate anyone riding a bicycle to wear a helmet.
Scientists know how much force it takes to crack your skull, so they have been able to design a test to determine how well a helmet can prevent that from happening. Currently, bike helmets are tested for their ability to protect against head injury, but new and exciting technology, called MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is being used by more bike helmet manufacturers as an additional safety feature. MIPS works by incorporating an additional thin, low-friction liner inside the helmet which allows the outer helmet shell to slide a few millimeters across the skull on impact, reducing the rotational force and the amount of energy transferred to the head. Tests by Consumer Reports comparing MIPS and non-MIPS versions of two helmets, demonstrated a reduction of rotational force by up to 43% with the MIPS helmets vs. their non-MIPS counterpart.
So you are convinced that a bike helmet is important. Right? But are you wearing it correctly? Consider these features:
1. If the helmet is loose, it will not protect you. Be sure it fits the shape of your head. Push the helmet side to side and front to back to ensure a snug fit. It should not move very much. Tighten back straps and/or the chin strap until the fit is corrected.
2. Often riders have the “cowboy look” with their helmet. Essentially the helmet is pushed back, exposing three or more inches of the forehead. The front edge of the helmet should be no more than one inch above the eyebrows.
3. Another common mistake is failing to tighten the chin strap. How can you tell? It is tight enough if you can feel the top of the helmet press down on the top of your head when your jaw is halfway open. Additionally, the straps should meet just below and forward of the ears.
In the photo, Ryan Iafigliola, Sumter Cycling President, demonstrates the proper placement of a bicycle helmet. Notice his added safety feature…the rear-view mirror attached to the front of his helmet. It prevents him from having to turn around and look back before shifting lanes or making turns.
Remember, no helmet will protect you completely if you are in an accident. But a helmet will definitely lessen the chance of serious injury.
Sumter Cycling, your local safe cycling advocacy group, is offering free bicycle helmets while supplies last. Please contact us at sumtercycling2020@gmail.com to reserve yours. It could save your life!
Be safe on the roads!