April 30, 2008

No one kind fits all

A recent article by Eliza McGrawin in the Washington Post discusses how different sports require different helmets. Read some highlights below, or the article in full here.

Can't one all-purpose helmet suffice?

In a word, no, say medical experts. That's because different sports subject the body to different forces from different directions -- and sport-specific helmets are designed accordingly. "If you think about riding a bicycle, people tend to fall off front first, so they are more at risk for the front of their head hitting the ground, or a wall, because they are moving forward," Gioia says. A bike helmet has frontal protection to guard against this. "But then you have kids that are on skateboards, and the more typical thing for a skateboard is the skateboard zipping out, and you fall backwards and hit the back of your head." Skateboard helmets typically cover more of the skull and the back of the neck than bike helmets.

An equestrian helmet shields the top and sides of a rider's skull from impact in case of falls or kicks from a horse; secure chin straps keep the helmet in place during trots, gallops and jumps.

Since the 1990s, helmet use has become increasingly common in all sports. Twenty-one states (including Maryland) plus the District require cyclists to wear a helmet, according to Safe Kids USA; Virginia has never passed a bike helmet law, but several Northern Virginia counties, including Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William, require their use by children younger than 15, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. At least six states plus the District also require children to wear helmets while using scooters, skates and skateboards. But in some sports, lenient policies still compromise safety.

The immersible kayak helmet features secure strapping plus back and side protection against rocks.

Anyone participating in a sport with a risk of head trauma needs to find the best helmet out there for that particular sport. It may mean that you will end up with an entire shelf dedicated to helmets, but the increased safety is worthwhile.

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