From Our Experts  |  March 20, 2022  |  Brent A. Townsend, MD

Do My Kids Really Have to Wear a Helmet?

It can be all too easy to ditch the bike helmet when you’re in a rush to get to your neighborhood pool or if your child is just going up the street. However, being in a hurry or only going a short distance won’t prevent an injury from happening. The Snell Memorial Foundation and Safety Education Center report that every year, the number of bicycle head injuries that require hospitalization, “exceeds the total of all head injury cases — including those from baseball, football, skateboards, scooters, horseback riding, snowboarding, ice hockey, in-line skating and lacrosse.”

Wearing a helmet is the easiest and most effective way to protect against head injuries while riding a bike. In North Carolina, if you’re under 16, it’s also required by law.

Wearing a helmet shouldn’t stop at age 16. In a study of more than 64,000 cyclists, helmets reduced the risk of major head injury by almost 70%. Additionally, of bike riders involved in a crash, helmet use has been estimated to reduce the risk of head injury by 85%. 

A properly fitting bike helmet can prevent more than just a cut on the head. Impact from a fall or collision can result in trauma to the brain. Even if the injury seems small, mild head injuries can cause a concussion which can lead to headaches, dizziness, memory loss, the inability to concentrate and sleep disorders. The helmet acts as an extra layer to absorb the impact energy, so your head doesn’t have to.

Throughout the Triangle, we’re connected by greenways and bike lanes and we have access to beautiful areas for a ride like the American Tobacco Trail.  With school out, it’s common to see kids moving all over their neighborhoods on their bikes. Riding a bike is efficient transportation and a lot of fun – especially when you take precautions to ensure that if you are in an accident, your head is protected.

If someone in your family does have a bike accident this summer, be sure to monitor for signs of a concussion. This may include dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, headache, nausea or sensitivity to light. If any of these symptoms are present, contact your primary care provider immediately. If a head CT or MRI is ordered, Wake Radiology’s team of dedicated pediatric radiologists and neuroradiologists are trained to interpret this type of medical imaging.

And, don’t forget that children are extremely influenced by the actions of their parents. Leading by example can help ensure that your kids use helmets way past the age of 16.

So this summer, make use of your bikes… and your helmets. The few seconds it takes to put on could save you time and money in the event of an accident.

Stats for Helmet Safety –
Should Riding Without a Helmet Be Legal? –

About Our Expert

Brent A. Townsend, MD — Dr. Townsend is a pediatric imaging radiologist at Wake Radiology. He is board certified in diagnostic radiology with a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in pediatric radiology from the American Board of Radiology (ABR). Learn More...

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