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Ohio Expert: Bike Helmets Prevent Serious Injuries, Save Lives

It's Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week and schools and organizations statewide are holding safety events to encourage adults and children to wear their helmets.  Photo courtesy of Ohio AAP.
It's Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week and schools and organizations statewide are holding safety events to encourage adults and children to wear their helmets. Photo courtesy of Ohio AAP.
May 6, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Neighborhoods across Ohio are buzzing with children riding bikes, scooters and skateboards, but only a small number of them take a simple step to prevent injury. Bike helmets can reduce the risk of injury by 85 percent, but only about 20 percent of children in Ohio wear one when riding, according to emergency room doctor Mike Gittelman, Division of Emergency Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Accidents can happen anywhere, and all it takes is just one bad fall, he warned.

"Just last week I had a patient who tried to do a trick, landed on their head, had significant injury and is probably going to die," he said. "This is something that can happen to anybody and is something that is easily preventable."

It's Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week, and safety events are being held statewide to encourage adults and children to wear their helmets while riding.

Injuries are the number one cause of death for children. Gittelman, who also co-coordinates the Comprehensive Children's Injury Center, said if everyone in the United States wore a bike helmet, an estimated 49,000 head injuries and 150 deaths could be prevented annually.

"In the year 2010, the number of people injured by not wearing a helmet was about 51,000, just in our state," he said. "That is enough people to fill Nationwide Arena about 2.5 times."

Some communities in Ohio have bike helmet laws for children, but there is no statewide law. Gittelman is among those working to build support for bike helmet legislation at the Statehouse. Ensuring the safety of children goes beyond what is taught in the home, he noted.

"There are car seat laws, there are booster seat laws, because we want to make sure the children growing up have healthy and productive lives in the future," he said.

With rising health care costs, Gittelman added, accident prevention is crucial. He estimated that a $10 bike helmet can save insurers $40 per child.

More details about the Put a Lid on It! Campaign are available at www.ohioaap.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH