Using your head....

The statement was made by someone in Chicago (with all due respect - I didn’t
see a signature): “Sounds like unnecessary peer pressure to me. I think
wearing a helmet while riding a unicycle with a wheel diameter smaller than
30” is silly."

To which John Foss aptly replied: “I don’t see what wheel size has to do with
falling down. Sheer speed is not the issue in regard to potential head injury.”

Sad, but very true. I’ve been a paid bike advocate for the last seventeen
years, and in the late eighties, I conducted some research under a grant for
the National Centers for Disease Control on head injury and bicycle helmet
safety issues. Research indicates that simply falling off a bicycle, and in
this case a unicycle (I do both), can produce enough “g” force to produce
substantial head injury.

John goes on to say: “… as another writer mentioned earlier, yes, helmets
are probably most important for children, and that’s a decision responsibility
that should be made by the parents.”

Helmets are critical for children that don’t have fully developed skills of
reasoning or decision making (of course that goes for some adults I know too).
However - I don’t want to get into the helmet law fray in this space (there is
not time or space). That debate has been raging in the bike community for
years. The point is - helmets do save lives, this we know. The decision to wear
one is, however, a personal one, and should be based on the type of riding that
you do. However, with kids, the parent that said "it’s not an issue - no helmet

  • no riding" is taking the only sensible approach.

As Richard Ballantine, wheel person extrordinaire, once said about helmets:
“Sure they’re a hassle, and maybe a little uncomfortable, but so is being in a
wheelchair the rest of your life because your head has been pounded into
peanut-butter!”

Tim “Too-Many-Wheels” Bustos Sacramento, CA

Re: Using your head…

When I get a bad case of hiccoughs I can usually hold my breath long enough to
make it go away. This overly-emotional thread in an otherwise excellent list has
become as tiresome as a bad case of hiccoughs. How about we all hold our breaths
and see if we can make it go away?

David Maxfield Bainbridge Island, WA

RE: Using your head…

> >>community for years. The point is - helmets do save lives,
> this we know.
> >
> >No we don’t. That is the point. Pro-helmet evangelists proclaim helmets
> >save lives, but there is very little (or no) research to support this.

Sometimes common sense can be more useful than research. Research can give us an
idea of how many lives were saved by helmets. It can also tell us how many
accidents were potentially worsened by the presence of a helmets (for
motorcycles this is under 2%, contrary to popular belief).

But it doesn’t take a scientific study to understand that a hard shell on the
outside of your head will protect you if you fall on it. Your brain is one of
the few parts of your body that can’t heal. Today, the decision to wear a helmet
is as much a cultural one as it is a safety issue, as we’ve seen between the UK
and US, and between the performers and parents. Most of us have been saying that
the choice is yours (or should be).

But is there anyone out there who really believes helmets don’t save lives? Or
that they don’t protect you? I used to work in the driving education business. I
taught (classroom) classes on car and motorcycle driving, and learned all sorts
of numbers and studies. For motor vehicles, evidence of what makes you safer is
overwhelming. The facts are there, and one must simply look them up.

But even more convincing, and personally effective, are all the stories told by
the people in my classes when we talk about accidents we’ve been in and what we
might learn from them. It’s amazing how many people have taken rides through the
windshields of cars and still don’t wear seat belts, for instance, because they
aren’t convinced how much more protected they would be. This has been proven,
thousands of times each year, since seat belts were first used.

Be wary of studies and statistics, because the results can usually be looked at
from many angles, to prove different points. That’s why I prefer all the
personal stories I heard. Statistics can tell us some things. But for the most
basic ideas, a scientific survey is hardly required. Wear a helmet if you want.
If you fall on your head I can almost guarantee you will be more protected from
injury than without it. So can we please stop arguing the obvious, about whether
or not helmets protect you?

Stay on top,

John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone http://www.unicycling.com

Re: Using your head…

In article <199904052139.OAA21644@wheel.dcn.davis.ca.us>, Tim Bustos wrote:

>community for years. The point is - helmets do save lives, this we know.

No we don’t. That is the point. Pro-helmet evangelists proclaim helmets save
lives, but there is very little (or no) research to support this. The best
figures at the moment (arguably) come from Australia where compulsory helmets
increased the rate of serious head injury. This could be down to
subconscious risk compensation, or increased torsional damage due to increased
head diameter, or increased impact rates due to increased sizes. There are a
number of ways it could be caused, but the fact remains that it happened, and
knee-jerk ‘hel;mets must save lives’ and isolated anecdotes prove nothing.

‘Common sense’, which is what the pro helmet lobby is generally relying on, is
not self-evidently right. In many cases ‘common sense’ is wrong.

regards, Ian SMith

|\ /| Opinions expressed in this post are my own, and do
|o o| not reflect the views of Amos, my mbu puffer fish.
|/ | (His view is that small snails are very tasty.)
Amos now on the web at http://www.achrn.demon.co.uk/amos.html

Re: Using your head…

Didn’t the Tobacco industry say that there is little or no research to prove the
statement that smoking kills people?

Haven’t several major oil corporations indicated that there is very little
research to prove that CO2 emissions are causing global climate change?

Rigorous research often fails to prove the obvious because of data inadequacies,
not because of misguided common sense.

In any case, why all the fuss? Discussing this topic in 1999 is like modern
rock-climbers decrying the technique of hangdogging- its an old and tired issue
that I thought had been put to bed years ago!

>>community for years. The point is - helmets do save lives, this we know.
>
>No we don’t. That is the point. Pro-helmet evangelists proclaim helmets save
>lives, but there is very little (or no) research to support this.


Kris Holm, B.Sc. Geologist, Forestry Group, EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd.
Suite 550, Sun Life Plaza, 1100 Melville Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6E 4A6
Tel:(604) 685-0275 Fax:(604) 684-6241 Email: kholm@eba.ca

Re: Using your head…

In article <3.0.3.32.19990407142908.006d83a8@199.185.15.66>, Kris Holm wrote:

>Rigorous research often fails to prove the obvious because of data
>inadequacies, not because of misguided common sense.

Agreed, but equally frequently ‘common sense’ is wrong, and I will not willingly
be lumbered with damaging laws purely because the pro-helmet brigade favour
common sense over facts.

Statistically, a car passenger is more prone to head injury than a cyclist (and
I presume than a unicyclist). Why do you not wear a crash helmet to drive?

>In any case, why all the fuss? Discussing this topic in 1999 is like modern
>rock-climbers decrying the technique of hangdogging- its an old and tired issue
>that I thought had been put to bed years ago!

Because politicians are periodically coming up with proposals for compulsory
helmets, despite the evidence that they increase the head injury rate,
dramatically increase the overall injury rate, and significantly reduce the
amount of cycling.

regards, Ian SMith

|\ /| Opinions expressed in this post are my own, and do
|o o| not reflect the views of Amos, my mbu puffer fish.
|/ | (His view is that small snails are very tasty.)
Amos now on the web at http://www.achrn.demon.co.uk/amos.html

Re: Using your head…

John Foss wrote:

>But even more convincing, and personally effective, are all the stories
told
>by the people in my classes when we talk about accidents we’ve been in
and
>what we might learn from them.

I thought I would weight with this.

My wife is a pediatrician and sees many cases that involve bike injuries. A
couple of years ago she saw two cases in one day that make a very serious point.
The first was a boy who had a head on collision with a truck. Both were breaking
at the last minute to try to avoid the accident, but they still met with enough
force that the truck was left with a large, helmet shaped dent in the front. The
boy walked away with headache and a cracked helmet, but was otherwise uninjured.
Shortly after that she saw a girl (who wasn’t one of her regular patients) who
was in for a follow up check up from an earlier bike accident. She had been
riding her bike on the sidewalk in front of her house. When she turned into her
driveway the family cat ran out and startled the girl. She swerved, lost control
and hit a tree with her head. She wasn’t going very fast, but she wound up with
a steel plate in her head, and brain damage that will impair the girls for the
rest of her life. My wife inquired, as gently as possible, as to why the girl
wasn’t wearing a helmet. The girl’s mother said she didn’t think she needed one
since she was just riding on the sidewalk and wasn’t going very fast.

I know you can’t, and even shouldn’t, try to protect yourself against every
possible danger. However, some precautions are reasonable. A helmet is one of
them. Wear ing a helmet is a good habit. As a matter of course I wear a helmet
whenever I hop on a bike or a unicycle. I don’t try to decide if I really need
one or not. The vast majority of my cycling is done mountain unicycling. I
always wear a helmet, knee pads , and wrist guards. (A precaution my wife
suggested. She sees many wrist injuries from rollerblading accidents and
assumed, correctly, that there is the potential for similar injuries as I try to
ride through bumps and I am suddenly thrown forward with only my hands to break
my fall. A precaution I am glad I have taken especially after reading here
earlier about the MUni broken wrist story. I didn’t really start to learn to
ride on trails until I started trying to ride out of places where I was stuck
instead of always stepping out.)

The biggest point I am trying to make is that the one that finally gets you is
often something you hadn’t considered at all. I wear a helmet as protection, and
to set the example for my kids and anyone else who sees me riding. Young people
often think they are bulletproof and don’t foresee many potential problems.

Yesterday morning my sons were involved in a traffic accident while driving to
school. As they were driving through an intersection a car, which was traveling
in the opposite direction at a speed well above the speed limit, attempted to
turn left and hit my son’s car directly behind the driver’s seat. The car spun
two or three times as it passed through the intersection and came to rest on the
shoulder of the road. The impact crushed the back of the car. The door jam was
broken and the driver’s side door flew open. Fortunately they were both wearing
seat belts (a habit we enforced from day one) or they might have been thrown out
of the vehicle. They both escaped uninjured. I thank God for this, especially as
they were driving our old 1970 VW Bug. I am kicking myself now for letting them
drive a car with such outdates safety equipment. I am relieved that what little
protection they had was enough to save them in this particular accident.

The other car was a late model Volvo GLE. It continued through the
intersection after the impact and came to a rest on the far side of the road.
It sustained damage to the front end. I’m not sure how the occupants of the
Volvo are. They were both injured and taken to the hospital. Neither of them
were wearing seat belts.

I’m not going to wrap myself in full body armor to ride a unicycle. But, I don’t
want to guess when the unthinkable set of freak circumstances might occur when I
am suddenly falling backwards, my foot gets stuck on the pedal and I can’t get
it off, and I can’t get my hand back, and my fall is broken by my head.

Conclusion. Wearing a helmet while cycling is a good habit to get into. Wearing
a seat belt in a car is a good habit to get into. If you must drive a VW Beetle,
get a new one with driver side, passengerside, and door air bags. And, if a cat
suddenly jumps out in front of you on you bike or your unicycle or you new VW
Beetle, don’t swerve, hit the cat.

All the best,

John Hooten

I am not now, and never have been an employee of Volkswagen, any safety
equipment companies . I do not profit in any way from the sale of either VW’s,
bike helmets, or wrist guards.