SAEM wants you to know about the importance of wearing a helmet to prevent brain injury.

Helmets are designed to protect your head and brain from catastrophic injuries resulting from physical activities or bicycle and motorcycle accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year there are over 600,000 people treated for bicycle-related injuries in the emergency department. 30% of those visits are because of head injuries.1 Similarly, there were an estimated 446,788 sports-related head injuries treated at US hospital emergency rooms in 2009.2 The most important way you can protect yourself from head injury is by wearing an activity-appropriate helmet. Below are safety guidelines and helmet resources that you can use to protect yourself from injury. 

Helmets may reduce head and brain injury up to 88%3 

According to the Cochrane Database Systems Review, “Helmets provide a 63%-88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists." 3 The American Academy of Neurology reports that “leading football helmets reduce the risk of skull fracture by 60-70% and reduce the risk of focal brain contusion by 70-80%."4 It is important to understand that the impact of head and brain injury can last a lifetime. 

While helmets are a protective measure, it is important to understand that you may still experience a head injury if you have an accident while wearing a helmet. However, wearing a helmet will reduce the risk of a serious brain injury. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), states that require motorcyclists to wear helmets have a significantly lower motorcycle death rate than states that do not have a helmet law.5  In states that had a helmet law, a mere 9% of motorcycle accidents were fatal to the motorcyclist, compared to 62% fatalities in states without a helmet law.6  Be smart and wear your helmet! 

This announcement is provided for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

Helmet Safety Guidelines

  1. Choose the correct helmet for the sport you are participating in.
  2. The materials and shape of the helmet are important features for minimizing the risk of injury.
  3. Helmets should be worn correctly and consistently.
  4. The maintenance of your helmet is important; if the helmet is broken, replace it.

Helmet Fitting

  1. Make sure the helmet fits your head snugly. Wearing a helmet that is too tight or too loose defeats the purpose of wearing the protective gear.
  2. Coverage of the helmet on your head is imperative. The front of the helmet should cover your forehead and should be secure. It is important that your helmet isn’t too big or too small.
  3. Having a clear path of vision when wearing your helmet is essential. You should be able to see straight in front of you and from side to side without the helmet being a distraction.
  4. Purchase an approved bicycle helmet. Look for the sticker that says it “meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

For more information on helmet fitting, you can visit: 
Bicycle Helmet Guide (Snell Memorial Foundation) 
Helmet Safety (CDC) 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is traumatic brain injury (TBI)? It is a form of brain injury caused by abrupt damage to the brain. The results of TBI can vary, but there is a high risk of permanent neurobiological damage that can produce lifelong deficits.

What is a concussion? It is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a hard hit to the head that shakes the brain inside the skull. Concussions are diagnosed when someone experiences memory loss, blurred vision, headaches, or nausea after hitting his or her head. If this happens to you, seek medical attention immediately.2

Moderate brain injury vs. severe brain injury: There are many factors in recognizing the severity of a brain injury. If you think someone you know may have experienced a brain injury, contact your doctor or call 911.

Can wearing a helmet during sporting activities prevent head or brain injury?


Football helmets have evolved dramatically over the years. Football players weren’t required even to wear helmets until 1939. The first helmets were nothing more than leather padding. Today, football helmets are made up of a combination of metal, plastic and rubber to ensure head safety.

Ice hockey is another sport that has a high risk of head injury. Helmets are very important and are responsible for protecting hockey players from the most catastrophic brain injuries.

Baseball players are also required to wear a helmet. The damage that can occur if you get hit by a ball moving at speeds faster than 95 miles an hour is considerable.

Sports and Other Activities Where Helmets Will Protect against Head and Brain Injury:

  • Bicycling
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Baseball
  • Wrestling
  • Horseback riding
  • Racecar driving
  • BMX, motocross and ATV driving
  • Rugby
  • Lacrosse
  • Polo
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing and snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling

Statistics

  • In 2012, 4,957 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents. (NHTSA)7
  • Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. (World Health Organization)8
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders.
    63% of bicyclists killed in 2013 were reportedly not wearing helmets. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety - IIHS)9
  • Head injury is the most common cause of death and serious disability in bicycle-related crashes. (CDC)1
  • In the United States, head injuries account for over 60% of cyclist deaths, two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions, and one-third of hospital emergency visits for bicycle injuries. (U.S. Department of Transportation)10
  • Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4 to 15 would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries, and 18,000 to 55,000 scalp and face injuries, annually. (CDC)1
  • The US Federal Government estimates that, per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars. (IIHS)11
  • An estimated 1,699 motorcyclists’ lives were saved by helmets in 2012, and 781 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. (NHTSA)7

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Program Performance and Evaluation Office. X. Injury Prevention and Control-Bicycle Helmet Usage and Head Injury Prevention, (2011 June 30). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/program/performance/fy2000plan/2000xbicycle.htm

2. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Patient Information. (2014 August 1). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Sports-Related%20Head%20Injury.aspx

3. Liu, B., Ivers, R., Norton, R., Blows, S., & Lo, S. (2009). Helmets for preventing injury in motorcycle riders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Reviews, (1), 1-44.

4. American Academy of Neurology (AAN). How Well Do Football Helmets Protect Players from Concussions? (2014 February 1). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/home/PressRelease/1241

5.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motorcycles. (2014 June 1). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812035.pdf

6. Governors Highway Safety Association. Spotlight on Highway Safety. (2013 April 1). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/spotlight/motorcycle2012.html

7. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2014). Traffic safety facts, 2012: motorcycles. Report no. DOT HS-812-035. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812035.pdf

8. World Health Organization. Road Traffic Injuries Fact Sheet N358. (2015 May 1). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs358/en/

9. Insurance Information Institute. Motorcycle Crashes. (2015 July). Retrieved September 16, 2015 from http://www.iii.org/issue-update/motorcycle-crashes.

10. Bicycle Helmets for the 2015 Season. (2015 July 20). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.helmets.org/helmet15.htm

11. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute. Motorcycles and ATVS 2013. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/motorcycles/fatalityfacts/motorcycles