Have you ever played Russian roulette? It’s a game of chance where you load one bullet into a revolver, spin the cartridge so you don’t know if the bullet is in the chamber and then you put the gun to your head and pull the trigger?
NO, of course you haven’t. That would be too dangerous to even consider, but yet I bet at some point in your life you have contemplated or maybe you even have ridden your bike, motorcycle, skateboard, snowboard or horse without a helmet! So you have played Russian roulette with your brain!
THE CDC states that less than ½ of all Americans age 5-14 wear helmets while participating in these activities and that number decreases with age. In 2010 they also note that over half a million people received ER treatment for head and bone injuries from biking incidents alone. Of these 26,000 were Traumatic Brain Injuries.
The CDC statistics show that rates of TBI have climbed slowly in the last decade. However the numbers are larger for men (nearly 40% increase) than for women (20% increase)and those most likely to die of TBI from lack of a helmet are young males.
So why are we playing Russian roulette with our brains? Why are we not wearing helmets? According to HELMET.ORG the helmet safety organization the common excuses for not wearing helmets range from
-It will make me look geeky---to
-it makes my head sweat—to
--it will make me go bald--to
--I’m just going around the corner and by the time I get my helmet I could be back!
While at the moment someone states these things they may seem valid…Let’s look at each one more closely.
So you think your helmet makes you look geeky or like a whimp? My friend Nick Goepper is an Olympic freestyle skier. If you go to his website or Instagram you can see him doing crazy and what most guys would call ‘manly’ tricks.’ Not only have his fans never seen him skiing without a helmet but he has said, “That people who don’t wear helmets aren’t showing their skill or daring because without a helmet you can’t take the kind of risks you need to get better and to do the really big tricks. So I know when I see kids without helmets that they aren’t serious about getting better and attempting the bigger jumps. You can’t improve your skills without the right equipment to give you the tools to do so.”
Look at the leaders of your sport. Does Shawn White snowboard without a helmet? Does Marlene Esparza box without one? Do you ever see Tony Romo play football without a helmet? No!
So the next time someone says you are a whimp or geeky for wearing a helmet you can say, “I dare you to walk up to Tony and tell him he’s a whimp for wearing his…until you do that I’m with him!”
As for sweating, I can agree that sweating in a helmet is uncomfortable. I have ridden hours a day in the Texas, Florida and California summers with a helmet. But now companies like International Riding Helmets (IRH) my sponsor have addressed a lot of these type of issues.
IRH puts vents across the top for air and interior lining which can be removed to be washed.
Companies have attempted to address style issues this way as well. By adding, for example, some bling, leather and colors…you can be styling and match your outfit. Some sports now have stickers and other things you can add to personalize and express yourself through your helmet. In essence, it has become part of your whole outfit. In many sports, the helmet is where all the sponsor labels go…so stick on a sticker or two and look like a pro.
US News and World Report Health noted in Feb, 2011 that wearing hats and helmets does not in any way cause baldness. So let’s dispel that urban myth right now. Anyone can google and find dozens of reputable sites like the CDC and helmet.org, the NYTimes and the Wallstreet Journal. All note that this is an urban legend and that there is NO scientific data in any way supporting that wearing a helmet will cause baldness.
So if helmets have improved design and appearance to minimize sweating, and wearing helmets is done by all the top professionals, and it doesn’t increase your chance for baldness, the only thing left to keep you from putting one on to ride is “time.” Yes it might take you 3 minutes to go to your room for your helmet. But that 3 minutes is a number far less than the days in a coma, weeks in rehab and months or years recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
In my sport of Dressage, Olympian Courtney King-Dye took a near fatal fall without a helmet in 2010. At age 32 she suffered a fractured skull. She has become the FEI Global Ambassador for helmet safety in the Riders4Helmets campaign. She would be the first to tell you, take the time to put it on!
Finally, for those of you who are parents or older brothers or aunts we may be guiding future generations …be an example of a SMART adult. Wear your helmet and when your kid says you look geeky tell them “Gee THANKS, I spent enough time and money on my college education I would hope it showed how smart I got!”
Be a role model, be smart, don’t play Russian roulette with your brain…wear a helmet every ride every time.