Riding Bikes or Motorcycles, Helmet Use Remains Life-saving.(SPORTS)(WEEKEND ATHLETE: HEALTH &Amp; FITNESS)

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. Gabe Mirkin, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In 1999, Florida repealed its mandatory helmet law for motorcycle drivers. The next year, both severe brain damage and deaths in motorcycle riders doubled (Journal of Trauma - Injury Infection and Critical Care, Volume 52, Issue 3, 2002).

Before the repeal of the helmet law, there were 52 cases of severe head trauma in motorcyclists evaluated at University of Miami Medical Center from July1, 2000, through Dec.31, 2000. After the repeal, there were 94 cases. Motorcyclists went from 83 percent using helmets down to 56 percent after they were not forced to wear them. This shows that some motorcyclists may not benefit from wearing helmets because they don't have anything to protect.

The same applies to bicycle riders. In 1997, 64 of 67 counties in Florida passed laws requiring helmet use by bicyclists younger than 16. In counties mandating helmet use, 79 percent of riders wore helmets, compared to 33 percent in counties without the law. Many recent studies show that bicycle helmets prevent injuries and death. Head injuries cause three quarters of all deaths from bicycle and motorcycle accidents.

A woodpecker bangs its head harder with every peck than you do when you hit your head in an auto accident. But the woodpecker's brain is protected because its skull allows no movement of its brain inside. Your brain is enclosed in a sac of fluid. When you hit your head, your brain bounces around and is damaged as it bangs against the sides of your skull.

A helmet protects your head like a woodpecker's skull if it fits properly. Good helmets have a stiff liner that fits tightly around your head and a strong chin strap that holds your helmet tightly on your head, allowing no movement. If you can move your helmet when it is fastened, it doesn't fit.

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