From toddlers to teens, ride-on toys are a popular way to remain physically active and enjoy the outdoors, even admid COVID-19 restrictions. If you have been seeing an increase in hoverboards, bicycles, scooters, skateboards or any other wheeled toy in your neighborhood, you're not alone. But remember before you let your kids loose on the sidewalks that a properly fitting helmet is essential for safety.
The brain is a big deal
Even with the watchful eye of a parent or other adult, accidents happen that result in brain injury. In fact, an average of 62,000 children across the country sustain brain injuries requiring hospitalization every year.
Fifty times every hour, a child is visiting the emergency room for a wheeled sports-related injury. That is 426,000 children every year, according to a 2017 study by Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program.
It should come as no surprise that an injury to the body’s most important organ can be devastating. According to Madonna’s Brain Injury Program leader and Certified Brain Injury Specialist Brooke Murtaugh, OTD, OTR/L, “A brain injury can affect your whole life. Whether it’s a mild, moderate or severe injury, the brain may never be the same as it was before it was injured.”
The results can be lifelong for children and adolescents, Murtaugh says. “Brain injuries in children and adolescents can have more significant effects, in some cases, than the same injuries in adults because the brain hasn’t fully developed. A child with a brain injury doesn’t learn like a child without a brain injury,” she said. “It can make skills such as reading, writing, and developing social skills with peers that much more difficult.”
Don’t all kids wear helmets?
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital surveyed parents, receiving more than 1,300 responses about their children’s helmet wearing habits.
While riding a bike, 18 percent of parents report that their children do not wear helmets. Those numbers increase dramatically for other wheeled toys. Sixty percent of the survey respondents said their children did not wear a helmet when riding a scooter. When asked about skateboards, 58 percent of children went without protective head gear.
Every present with wheels is bound to bring joyful delight to the person on the receiving end, but it should be accompanied by a safety helmet. A helmet that fits properly can reduce the risk of a head injury by 45 percent.
A properly fitting safety helmet should be snug on your child’s head. Position the helmet on your child’s forehead, without leaning it forward or backward. Then adjust the strap to fit comfortably around your child’s chin, with no more than two fingers worth of room. Routinely inspect the helmet for cracks and wear and replace if necessary. Engage your child in a conversation about the importance of wearing their safety helmet.
Other safety tips to note
Taking a tumble on newly acquired skates or bike is to be expected. Aside from a helmet, other protective gear can reduce the risk of injury. Properly fitted knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards will help prevent scrapes, bruises, and broken bones.
For added safety, make sure drivers can see your children! Kids should wear bright, neon colored clothes so they are visible to motorists, especially during the winter months when it is dark out for longer periods of the day. This also helps you keep an eye on your kids. Win, win!
Make sure to teach children to be aware of their surroundings, stop at stop signs and walk their bike/scooter/etc. across the street within a designated crosswalk.
Enjoy the ride!
With proper safety precautions, children and adolescents can very safely enjoy their new bike, scooter, skateboard or hoverboard. We recommend reviewing these guidelines periodically to make sure everyone is on the same page and safety remains a priority:
- Helmets are required, no exceptions
- Stop at stop signs
- Walk your bike/scooter/etc. across the street, within a designated crosswalk
- Use hand signals to notify others of your next move
- Avoid motorized scooters if you are under the age of 16.
To learn more about Madonna’s brain injury program, click here.
To learn more about Madonna’s pediatric rehabilitation program, click here.