Most western countries mandate safety helmets for cyclists. This not only turns cycling into a safe sport but also saves several lives on the road. It also saves several young men and women from suffering crippling head injuries.
However, for the helmet to be useful it must fit properly. An ill-fitting helmet may provide some protection but not sufficient protection. Ideally, there should be no space between the head and the helmet padding. Loose helmets are prone to jerks, and can crash into your skull when you hit the road.
Good bicycle helmets are made of foam polystyrene, a material that contains a high number of tiny air pockets. When these pockets are crushed they absorb the force, protecting the cyclist’s head from the impact.
Another advantage of polystyrene is its flexibility. It is a strong material but can be molded into any shape. This makes it possible to make helmets that converge well over the head. The air pockets make these helmets warm during summers but nowadays helmets with more air vents are available. These keep the heads cool. However, reduction of air pockets leads to reduction in the amount of energy absorbed and the helmet becomes less protective. One therefore has to balance safety against comfort.
The utility of helmet is also lost when the rider is careless. Loosely strapped helmets or helmets placed carelessly on the head are likely to result in serious injuries during an accident. Similarly, cheap helmets may look good but they may not offer the required protection in case of an accident. .
Helmets are needed not only for cycling but also for other sports like horse riding and motorbike races. The injuries in these cases are far more severe because the rider is moving at a much higher speed. A rider falling from a height of two feet is likely to sustain less severe injuries as compared to a rider falling from a height of 8 feet. In either case the danger is there. That is why parents and teachers must insist that their children wear protective helmets while cycling.
Statistics show that the highest number of road deaths are caused by head injuries because the cyclists were not wearing protective helmets. There is little consolation for those who escape death; many of them end up with crippling injuries.
If you don’t want to be one of them, then you must learn to wear a helmet – even when you are going down to school. A helmet is not an appendage; it is your best protector.