If you follow sports, you’ve no doubt heard plenty about the concussion problem in football. But football is far from the only way to sustain a traumatic brain injury. In 2014, traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, were a factor in the deaths of 56,800 people. Most were not football-related. In fact, falls and motor vehicle crashes are the top causes of these type of injuries. Obviously, you should wear the safest helmet possible if you’re playing football. But just as obviously, we’re not going to walk around our houses in a crash helmet. Let’s take a look at some less-obvious scenarios where the decision to wear a helmet may not be as clear.
On A Motorcycle
In some states, wearing a motorcycle helmet is like wearing a seat belt in a car. You had better do it unless you want to get pulled over. But surprisingly, many states don’t require everyone on a motorcycle to wear a helmet. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring universal helmet usage. An added 28 states require helmet use in some cases, while three states have no helmet requirements whatsoever (those states are Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
But it shouldn’t matter whether you’re riding your motorcycle through the cornfields of Iowa or the vineyards of California. You need to wear a helmet if you’re going any farther than the end of the driveway. And you should probably wear it then, too.
Don’t just slap on the first helmet you find at any old motorcycle shop, either. You should head to a reputable equipment shop to try on a few different brands and models. Brands like HJC helmets manufacture full-face models as well as open-face ones. You can even get a half-helmet if that’s all you decide you need. But something is always better than nothing.
Riding A Bicycle
If an activity is supposed to be easy and instinctive, we call it “like riding a bike.” After all, if kids can ride a bike, then anyone should be able to work the pedals properly, right? But bicycling can be a lot more perilous than it looks to outsiders.
A good helmet will protect you whether you’re a kid on a 10-speed or an adult biking to work for the morning commute. One study in Australia found that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of suffering a serious head injury by almost 70 percent.
While bicycle helmets are required for all riders in Australia, the same isn’t true in America. The laws are more patchwork here, and many states don’t regulate it at all. That leaves it to city and county leaders to pass laws requiring some or all riders to don helmets. In general, cities and states are more concerned with ensuring that children wear helmets, though some also require adult bicyclists to do so as well.
For instance, Washington state bicyclists need only wear a helmet in certain cities and counties. More populated areas like Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Vancouver require helmets for every bicyclist. But if you’re going biking in a more rural part of the state, it’s still a good idea to wear one. A bicycle helmet can protect more than just your brain. You also have your face and teeth to think about.
A lot depends on the type of helmet being worn and the way you fall off the bike. But even if you don’t get a concussion, you may still need dental services or even plastic surgery on your face. You might be able to walk away from the accident, albeit with a scar on your face that always prompts strangers to ask, “What happened to you?” The feeling of riding with the wind in your hair is not worth the risk.