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Better safe than sorry
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Very often, it is in moments in which you least expect it that you can be encountered with the grimmest pain.
You may be gleefully skipping along life's daily path, fiercely storming through your grief, or just simply living in the present, but it is safe to assume that there may be a startling moment in which your initial intentions will come about all askew. For instance, let's examine the case of 16-year old Brian - a standard American teenager, who while enjoying a helmet-less skateboard ride on the dawn of June 22, 2006, was pronounced dead from severe scalp impact hours before his high-school graduation.
Andrei Kivilev was 29 when he, amidst the second stage of the Paris-Nice bicycle race, suffered a critically fractured skull while cycling absent of a helmet. Natasha Richardson, a renowned stage and screen actress, was no more when she drew a blow to the head after taking a helmet-less fall during a ski lesson.
Upon analysis, I've found it both tragic and thought-provoking to observe these preventable cases of death, and have resolved that each can be traced down to one simple accessory - the helmet.
Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not stationary; rather, it is a spongy, porous organ that can moderately sway according to the activity of the individual. When a person's head abruptly collides with thick sod or pavement, the delicate brain in turn smashes into the skull - creating tearing, bruising, or swelling. Complications with speech, memory, coordination, and vision can thereafter ensue.
A helmet is designed to reduce the impact of the strike with its interior lining of foam, which gives for a cushion to support the head. The common inner substance for a bike helmet is polystyrene foam, whereas those for motorcycling, hockey, and construction are made with a more durable grade. A helmet that extends itself from the peak of the eyebrows to the uppermost tip of the neck serves as the ideal barrier against collisions because it provides the ultimate coverage. Upon use, the straps should be adjusted to a comfortably snug fit, which increases the stability of the helmet in general.
It is quite clear to me that there was a considerable quantity of sense and reasoning that was present when folks such as John T. Riddell patented a form of the football helmet and Chang-Hsien Ho designed a model for a horseback riding helmet, but much to my dismay, I find individuals who still question the logic and worth behind one. Cost, time and image continue to be the decisive factors for most people when determining whether a helmet is a necessity, and thus I wish to expose these claims as invalid once and for all.
Generally, the subject of expense lingers along with any debated matter. With the economic situation taking a toll for the worse, it is plain to me that many individuals struggle to make ends meet. However, examinations of statistics from Washington state hospitals alone revealed a $113 million spent each year on the care for children harmed from bicycle calamities. If parents could spare just a few extra dollars for a helmet for themselves and their children, I believe it would greatly benefit society in the long-run.
Calculations have indicated that $30 of otherwise medical costs could be saved by communities for every $1 spent on a helmet. I have come across simple child cycling ones that can be purchased from a range of $20 to $35, and likewise adult ones that can be obtained for a bit more, but I hope that helmets may continue to become accessible to a greater number of individuals in the future.
I find some humor when folks claim that a helmet is more of a burden than a benefit, that it utilizes all too much time to adjust and stabilize and it's more efficient to just leave it aside and continue with the activity absent of one. In addition, it never fails to grasp my attention when adolescents speak of the adventurousness and "coolness" associated without wearing one.
In turn, I've decided to believe the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) after they announced that, in 2008, 91 percent of the cyclists killed in collisions were not wearing helmets. I will also give credit to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System CPSC when they account the head injuries as 8,540 for snowboarding and the 3,511 for in-line skating in 2004.
Although a helmet is not the sole shield to protect against all skull traumas, I'm certain it does play a decisive role in events where the prospect of injury persists, and I will stand firm that it is capable of bridging the gap between life and possible death. Never have I personally deduced disadvantages from displaying one, and I'll continue to sport mine confidently in hope that the rest of America ultimately joins me.
- Henna Hundal is a resident of Turlock. She will be entering high school and writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society.