As Oregon and Southwest Washington residents plan their outdoor activities for the Fourth of July, officials with Oregon Health & Science University's ThinkFirst Oregon program are reminding families not to forget their helmets.
Use of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, inline skates, skateboards, bicycles, non-motorized scooters, even horses, increase as temperatures rise, and people should always wear helmets when using these transportation modes, said OHSU's Edward Neuwelt, M.D., medical director for ThinkFirst Oregon, a 20-year-old head and spinal injury prevention program.
Neuwelt said incidents like that involving Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who wasn't wearing a helmet, and narrowly escaped serious injury, when he recently crashed his motorcycle, should be a wake-up call to people preparing to head out for holiday.
"I call it 'trauma season,'" said Neuwelt, professor of neurology and neurological surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine. "During summer months, more people are on roads, sidewalks and trails, and when combined with high speed, the risk of head injury is greatly increased. Head trauma is a preventable disorder, and wearing a helmet can mean the difference between lifelong cognitive impairment and a normal, healthy existence."
He added that medical costs for treating a head injury can reach $750,000 in just the first year.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were about 151,000 head injuries among bicyclists treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms among in 2004. Nearly 11,000 or 7 percent of those emergency room visits required hospitalization. Among skateboarders, there were about 18,000 head injuries treated in emergency rooms with about 760 or 4 percent needing hospitalization. Even among horseback riders, there were 14,000 emergency room-treated head injuries, with 2,400 or 17 percent of them requiring hospitalization.
Moneeka Patel, ThinkFirst program coordinator, has a simple formula for determining whether an activity requires a helmet: "Anything that moves faster than you can run, you need a helmet," she said.
Patel noted that Oregon law requires children 15 and younger to wear safety helmets when riding on skateboards, scooters and inline skates in public places, which include streets, sidewalks, parking lots and skate parks. Failure to wear protective headgear is a traffic violation carrying a fine of $25 for each offense.
"So not only do children risk getting a serious head injury if they're not wearing helmets, they risk getting a ticket, and to a child or his or her family, $25 can be a lot of money," she said.
As part of its "Which Helmet for Which Activity" guide released in March, the Consumer Product Safety Commission developed a list of helmet types, activities they cover and the applicable standards to look for on product labels:
* Bicycle - Bicycling and scooter riding, including low speed and motor assisted, and roller and in-line skating (CPSC, ASTM F1447, Snell B-90/95, Snell N-94).
* BMX - BMX cycling (CPSC, ASTM F2032).
* Downhill - Downhill mountain bike racing (CPSC, ASTM F1952).
* Skateboard - Aggressive or "trick" roller and inline skating, and skateboarding (ASTM F1492, Snell N-94).
* Motocross or motorcycle - ATV riding, dirt- and mini-bike riding, motocrossing (DOT FMVSS 218, Snell M-2005).
* Karting or motorcycle - Karting/go-karting (DOT FMVSS 218, Snell K-98, Snell M-2005).
* Moped or motorcycle - Moped riding, powered scooter riding (DOT FMVSS 218, Snell L-98, Snell M-2005).
* Equestrian - horseback riding (ASTM F1163, Snell E-2001).
* Mountaineering - Rock and wall climbing (EN 12492*, Snell N-94).
* Baseball batter's - Baseball, softball and T-ball (NOCSAE ND022).
* Baseball catcher's - Baseball, softball and T-ball (NOCSAE ND024).
* Lacrosse - Lacrosse (NOCSAE ND041).
ThinkFirst and the Doernbecher Children's Safety Center offer low-cost, certified bicycle helmets that are available in toddler through adult sizes in limited colors. For more information, contact ThinkFirst at 503 494-7801 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Safety Center at 503 418-5666 or email@example.com.