When properly fitted and worn, a helmet is the most important piece of
protective athletic gear that you can wear. If you or the people you care
about play contact sports such as football or baseball, ride a bike, motorcycle
or a skateboard, it’s important to always wear a helmet. A helmet
protects your brain from impact if you fall or collide – and it
can save your life.
As medical director of trauma at Mission Hospital, part of St. Joseph Hoag
Health, I’ve cared for too many people who thought they didn’t
need to wear a helmet while riding their bikes or motorcycles or playing
sports. When bicyclers and skaters arrive at Mission Hospital’s
trauma center with no helmet, I know they may have a traumatic brain injury.
Sometimes these patients are unconscious; sometimes they are awake but
disoriented and dazed. Sometimes, they don’t make it.
As the only verified trauma center in south Orange County, Mission Hospital
clinicians are well-prepared with the expertise and equipment to help
save patient lives. We encourage our dear neighbors to wear a helmet to
protect themselves from scrapes, bleeding, potential fractures, and to
decrease their risk of
A concussion is when a blow or jolt causes the head and brain to bounce
or twist rapidly back and forth, which can damage brain cells and change
brain chemistry. People who undergo repeated concussions can have long-term
problems with thinking, memory, learning, coordination, sensation and emotion.
In the trauma bay, I’ve also cared for people whose lives were spared
because they wisely strapped on a helmet. At Mission Hospital, we believe
the best way to treat trauma is to prevent it from happening in the first
place. Be hardheaded about insisting that everyone who plays or rides
straps on a helmet. In other words, “be a helmet head.”
Remember, children under 18 are required to wear a helmet whenever they
ride their bikes – even if they’re just circling the block.
Still not convinced? Take it from Johnny Giavotella, second baseman for
the Los Angeles Angels.
“I get baseballs thrown my way every day. My helmet is the one thing
that has stood between me and head injury many times over. Every Major
Leaguer pays close attention to his helmet. I make sure it fits right
and is in good shape, and if it’s not, I see the equipment manager,”
said Giavotella who plays second base for the Los Angeles Angels. “Every
Angels teammate of mine takes helmet safety very seriously. It could only
take one big hit to the head to cost even the best player the rest of
the season on the disabled list and cause problems in the future. And
I want to win, not just this season but through my entire career and be
able to enjoy a long and active retirement with my family. The Angels
agree that helmets aren’t just protection, they’re cool.”
So now that you how important it is to wear a helmet, you need to know
how to pick the right one for you. In choosing a new helmet, make sure
to pay attention to three simple guidelines. The helmet has to: (1) fit
well; (2) be worn correctly; and (3) be in good condition.
When you’re trying on helmets, remember the word “SAFE”:
S is for Size. Measure the distance around your head with a soft tape measure, just
above the eyebrows and ears. Then take a look at the sizing information
on the helmet to figure out which size helmet best fits your head. Don’t
just go by “S,” “M,” or “L” without
trying it on, because sizes vary among manufacturers regardless of what
the label says. Some manufacturers have sizing charts on their website.
A is for Ask. Try on the helmet and ask yourself how it feels on your head. Check to
see if it slides forward or backward. If it does, it’s too big.
There should be no spaces between the padding and the head, and the helmet
should fit snugly but no too tight. Check if you can see straight ahead
and on either side. If the helmet has a bill, it should be parallel to
F is for Fit. Now that you’ve picked the right size helmet and made sure the
padding doesn’t feel uncomfortably loose or tight, see if it shifts
around easily on the head. The helmet should want to stay in one place.
E is for Evaluate. Once you’re satisfied with the way the helmet sits on the head,
fasten the chin strap (if there is one). Yawn wide, like you do when the
dentist asks you to open wide. The chin strap should pull the helmet down.
If it doesn’t, the strap needs to be snugged up.
I don’t want to see you in our trauma bay. Do yourself, your family
and your friends a favor and always wear a helmet.
The “Be a Helmet Head” effort continues an ongoing partnership
between Mission Hospital, part of St. Joseph Hoag Health, and the Angels
to promote health and safety awareness in communities across Orange County
and Los Angeles. The helmet safety night coincides with the conclusion
of National Trauma Awareness Month in May. Before their May 27 game, Angels
players will partner with Mission Hospital, St. Joseph Hoag Health to
draw attention to the importance of wearing the protective gear.
Almaas Shaikh, MD, FACS, is a trauma surgeon and the medical director of
trauma at Mission Hospital, part of St. Joseph Hoag Health. Learn more about Dr. Shaikh. Learn more about Mission Hospital.