Remember when your mother used to make you eat your broccoli "because it's good for you"? Well, gather 'round skaters, while I do my broccoli thing.
We need to spend some serious moments talking about the importance of wearing a helmet while skating. With a serious attitude about safety, your carefree skating career will probably be more fun and last a lot longer.
Like many others, I skated helmetless at first. But then something happened that radically changed my perspective.
A personal story
Recently I learned that my friend Mike (not his real name), a father, fellow desktop publisher and an in-line skating buddy, finally died after 11 months in a coma. Last July, we'd shared dinner just hours before he slipped and landed on the back of his head in-line skating. Mike would be a sought-after instructor today if he had been wearing the helmet he'd borrowed for the weekend. I know I'll never skate bareheaded again.
You call that an excuse?
You'll notice that the majority of skaters out there are not wearing helmets. Here are the excuses I used for a year:
- "I'll look like a geek in a helmet!"
- "I'll lose my sense of freedom."
- "It's going to be hot and uncomfortable."
- "A helmet would ruin my hair!"
Oh, please, Liz! Could funny hair be any worse than never skating again?
Four compelling reasons to cover up!Helmets play a powerful role in preventing head injuries, which can be the most deadly of all. Statistics have proved that in-line skating beginners are even more at risk for injuries to the back of the head because they often skate straight-legged, resulting in a tendency to fall backward. Before you decide you don't need a helmet, please do yourself (and your loved ones) a favor by considering the following points.
- There is only one bone in your body that you can never bruise or crack without serious, life-threatening problems, and that's your head.
- Humor me and try this: from a standstill, drop suddenly and loudly to your knee pads. Feel the impact, hear the crash. Then try to imagine how your unhelmeted head would have survived a simple zero-speed drop like that.
- Wearing a helmet acts as a visual signal to motorists that you are moving faster than pedestrian speed. Think about all those cell-phone users who are driving on "autopilot." To them, a bareheaded person within peripheral vision to the right of their car window is just another pedestrian moving at pedestrian speed. If you and the car meet at an intersection and the car turns right, guess who loses. Whether they think you are a bicyclist or a skater, they are more likely to accommodate your correct speed when they see your helmet.
- There is no parent-child double standard for wearing helmets. In fact, adult heads are more brittle, land from greater heights and hit the pavement with much more impact than those soft, young skulls. Besides, parents have the added responsibility of staying alive long enough to give their kids the best shot at a good life.
So if any of you out there in Broccoli Land already own a bike helmet, wear it!
The rest of you, get down to your local bicycle or skate shop. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has decreed that all helmets must comply with their federal safety standards for impact, strap strength and "roll off" (staying in place during an accident). At a minimum, look inside for the ANSI or Snell sticker of approval, which is good but has been superseded by the CSPC rating. Helmets should be replaced after five or more years because sweat, sun and heat cause deterioration to the protective materials.
Choose a style of helmet that is comfy, and cool--even way cool is OK. I suggest you pick out a vented model so that you hardly notice the weight and can still feel the wind tickling your little hair follicles.
As for size, find a helmet that is a pretty close fit. If slightly loose, make sure it comes with lots of removable inserts to customize it for your own knobby head. Next, adjust the helmet's chin straps so they lay close to your head and allow just enough slack for a big yawn and no more. The places where the front and back straps meet should be positioned just below your ear lobes, which can then prevent sideways slippage. See Proper Helmet Fit for a diagram and more details about custimizing the fit.
Your helmet should be snug enough so that it doesn't shift front to back or side to side. Always wear it so that it covers and protects your forehead (that's your brain under there). If you insist on showing off your pretty bangs, girls, I'm sorry, but your brain will still be at risk for a good bang on the pavement.
Like I said, broccoli.
The last bite
So yeah . . . you can skate for weeks, months, maybe even years without banging your head on the ground. But, remember, all it takes is just one slip.