Public Health Corner

It is widely recommended that both children and adults should wear a bicycle helmet while cycling. According to Consumer Reports, a properly fitting bike helmet is a cyclist’s best line of defense against severe head injuries, such as a skull fracture, and it could save your life.

Bike helmets are the most effective when they are properly fitted and worn correctly.

Follow these guidelines for proper fit:

1. The front edge should be no more than 1 inch above your eyebrows. With the straps on, push up firmly on the front edge of the helmet. If it moves back, the straps are too loose.

2. Push the helmet side to side and front to back. It should be snug enough that the motion wrinkles the skin at your temples.

3. A ponytail can alter the fit, so make sure to test a helmet wearing the same hairstyle you ride with.

4. To test that a buckled chin strap is tight enough open your mouth halfway—the helmet should press down on the top of your head as you do.

5. The front and back straps should make a V that meets just below and forward of the ear.

6. Grab the back tip and try to pull it up over the top of your head to the front. If the front of your helmet slips down, shorten the back straps.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute notes that the protective parts of the helmet are the inside foam, which crushes if you hit the road cushioning the blow to your brain; the outer shell, which makes it skid on the street to help prevent jerking your neck; and the straps, which keep the helmet in place on your head.

The Centers for Disease Control notes to replace any helmet that is damaged or has been involved in a crash, even if you can’t see any damage to the foam, as it’s designed to withstand only a single impact.

When buying a helmet be sure to look inside for a label that says U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) certified, which means that the helmet has been tested for safety, and meets the federal safety standard.

For more detailed information on helmet safety standards and testing see:

Helmet prices can range from $10 up to $200. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute tested CPSC certified helmets in all price ranges and found that the basic impact protection of the less expensive helmets equaled that of the expensive ones. With a more expensive helmet you may be paying for increased ventilation, an easier fit, and fancier graphics.

When you are not using your helmet, store it in a room that is not too hot or too cold, and away from direct sunlight to help prevent deterioration of the helmet materials.

While there is no concussion proof helmet, bicycle helmets work very well and provide a 66% to 88% reduction in the risk of head, brain, and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists, as long as the helmet is fitted correctly and buckled when you crash.