Most Bike Helmets Worn Improperly

More People Wearing Them, but Wear Them Incorrectly

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 4, 2003 -- More people are wearing helmets these days but are still putting them on incorrectly, a new study shows.

Head injury during recreational activities -- such as biking, skateboarding, or inline skating -- continues to be a leading cause of death. According to the researchers, there are 900 bicycle-related deaths per year in the U.S.; three-fourths of those are from head injury.

And researchers also say that wearing a helmet improperly significantly increases the risk of head injury. Their study appears in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers asked parents to bring their child's helmet during their visit to the doctor. Two days before their visit, parents received mailed instructions on how to properly put on a helmet. During the doctor's visit, researchers examined helmet fit and condition based on four criteria:

  • Condition
  • Stability
  • Room
  • Strap

Only 4% of the 395 families taking part passed the entire evaluation of condition and fit of the helmets. The others fell short by either improperly strapping the helmet on, not having the helmet on tight enough, or allowing the helmet to rest too high on the forehead.

Researchers found that regardless of age, sex, level of education, or frequency of bicycle use, most people cannot properly fit a bicycle helmet - even in a controlled setting.

Improper fit puts people, especially children, more at risk for head injury. Though they say more people are using helmets, paying more attention to putting them on properly can help decrease the number of head injuries.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips on properly fitting your child's helmet:

  • The helmet should be worn squarely on top of the head and should cover the top of the forehead. It should not be tipped back, exposing the forehead to injury.
  • A well-fitting helmet should not move around on the head or slide down over the child's eyes when pushed or pulled.
  • The helmet's chin strap should be adjusted to fit snugly.