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Teens Wearing Helmets
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Teens Wearing Helmets
I have a daughter who's a sophomore at Berkeley High who
would very much like to ride her bike to school. I'd like
her to, too, but she refuses to wear a helmet and I refuse
to let her ride a bike without one. Frankly, looking around
at the teenagers I see riding in Berkeley, I can see why she
would feel it wasn't necessary, or at the very least,
uncool. Adults wear them (my husband and I always do) and
kids under the age of about 12 do. In the 13 to 18 age
range, I think it's pretty rare. None of my daughter's
friends wear helmets. I'm not willing to bend on this.
Berkeley is actually a pretty dangerous town to ride a bike
in. I gave my older daughter, who's now in college, the
same restriction, and with a little initial grumbling, she
went for it. She rode her bike to BHS, with helmet, for
three years. Now I realize, though, that she was also one
of those kids who didn't care if people thought she was a
little dorky. Apparently, that's what it takes, which is
pretty frustrating. I'd be interested in hearing from other
parents about this. I know for a fact that lots of parents
must just be giving in to the no helmet trend, because I'm
seeing lots of evidence of that. What can we do? Riding a
bike w/o a helmet if you're under 18 is actually against the
law, but I know that's not being enforced. At this point,
it doesn't seem like my daughter will be riding a bike again
until she's either out of the house or has miraculously
developed some common sense about this, whichever comes first.
Mom of a bus rider
I have this same struggle with my Middle School
skateboarder. He lost skateboard priviledges for long
periods of time last year. Now, he is the only one in his
age group who wears his helmet, and I do spot checks. I
think if enough parents call the BPD and ask them to issue
warnings or make kids get off their
bikes/skateboards/scooters if found without a helmet, lots
more kids would wear them. I'm going to call right now.
Maybe we could get a petition going, meet with someone at
City Hall. This is a safety, traffic and energy
conservation issue. Contact me if you want to do something.
Tell your daughter about my story - I wish I had had a bike
helmet when I was 14. I was rushing to get to band practice
and trying to get through a yellow light. A driver about to
cross the intersection was jumping the light and he hit me.
I went up on his hood and shattered his windshield with my
head. I suffered a compound facture on my lower leg,
lacerations to my face, ear, and arms, and a head injury.
My leg healed after months being in a cast. I missed out on
the first month of High School, a time when lifetime
friendships often begin. But most seriously, I still have
complications from my head injury. I get dizzy spells,
which sometimes keep me away from activities, and I am at
risk of developing epilepsy. My accident happened 1974, in
a small town in Central California, before they had bike
helmets and giant SUVs. I am always amazed when I see
people riding without helmets, especially in this area
where it seems that half the drivers are too selfish to
drive carefully and the other half are too distracted by
stress. If I see a child I know without a helmet, I speak
up about it. Please enforce the helmet law with your
children. It is a law for a very good reason.
ALWAYS SAFETY FIRST
Mine do. I have 2 kids at College Prep, they ride their
bikes 6 miles to school every day from N Berkeley and they
wear their bike helmets. Both seem to get it that it's
really stupid not to wear a helmet on the bike. Both have
friends (including friends at BHS) who have had accidents.
They are well known enough that I have been contacted when
another parent thought they saw one of my kids riding
without a helmet. TG, it turned out to be a case of
mistaken identity. Don't let her ride without a helmet.
Maybe the solution is a cooler, more fashionable helmet?
my kids bike to school
I hate to be pessimistic, but I think there's not much to do
when a teenager's fear of looking dorky combines with the
typical teen's deep-seated feeling of invulnerability. Many
riders (not all of them teenagers) see the need for a helmet
only after they've slammed their heads into the pavement
once or twice. All I can recommend is standing firm.
To the mom whose daughter won't wear a helmet,
If your daughter thinks wearing a helmet is uncool, ask her
how cool it would be to spend the rest of her life wearing
diapers in a wheelchair.
It's such a gross image, maybe she'll reconsider her options.
My 9th grader (boy) and all of his friends, as far as I can
see, wear helmets. It wouldn't occur to him not to wear
one. It's not an option. He was trained at the King Middle
School bike club.
OK, parents, please let me hear it from you! I understand
that both Berkeley & state law require helmets at the
Berkeley Skate Park. Why is it that I never see them?
How safe do you think it is, for your child, to skate sans
helmet? If you do have your teen wear one, how do
you ''enforce'' it? My middle schooler has started to hang
out there some, and just as I would require a helmet
bicycling, I expected that to be the case at the skating
park. But when we went, I can actually say I had to
agree: ''But MOM, NO-ONE wears one!'' What's that about?
And, to those who do have them, where did you get a ''teen-
suitable'' one? All advice, recommendations, help, even if
it turns out I should ''relax'', I'd love to hear. Thanks
Helmet at the Skate Park?
My son used to go to the park a lot, and, yes, we argued a
lot about helmets. But the deal was if he went, he had to
wear the helmet, despite the fact most others don't wear it.
That his father also insisted (we are divorced) was key. My
son would have to reminded constantly (likewise with
bicycling.) But I know the helmet saved my son from two
serious concussions at the park - once when an inline skater
ran into him. His elbow cracked -- no pads -- but his head
was ok. I wish more parents would insist, especially for the
little kids. There are 'cool'(er) helmets, e.g. Pro-tec brand.
FYI my son happens to be banned from skating at the moment
b/c he was somewhere he wasn't supposed to be -- the skating
spot across from Berkeley High -- and wasn't wearing a
helmet and just happened to break his foot skating on a
With my son's injuries and the on-going helmet debate, I did
some research on skateboard injuries and talked with a
friend at National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health at the CDC. Surprisingly, the studies are few and are
out of date. They often mix data with in-line skating and
other activities. What I learned is that fractured
extremities are most common, and deaths are actually not
that common. Deaths usually involve skitching or colliding
with a car. What hasn't been documented is the affect of
repeated concussions over time in skateboarders. The general
studies on concussions, especially the evidence from
football, would indicate that a lot of non-helmeted
skateboarders will suffer from cumulative brain injuries due
to repeated 'minor' concussions. This is a very serious
outcome, but it is hard to convince teenagers of the danger
of it now. Yet, if you hang out at the skate park at all,
you are bound to hear the awful sound of head hitting
concrete. It's not pleasant. Maybe there should be a graphic
board on the brain and concussions at the skate park.
FYI - This site has data on reported injuries:
. You can call up data on
specific activities, kinds of injuries and time periods.
Hi - I'm a mom of a middle school age skateboarder and also
a practicing physician in the Berkeley area. The one hard
and fast rule we have regarding skateboarding is that my
son is required to wear his helmet. This is especially true
for the skatepark because of the risk of head injury
while ''droppoing in'' on the ramps. We enforce the rule in
our family by repetition, and letting him know that we'll
take away the skateboards for periods of time, or
eventually permanently if he doesn't comply. His helmets
are the BMX style helmets and can be purchased at most bike
or sporting goods stores. I ''drop-by'' to the skatepark
occasionally (and my son knows it) to check on him and
verify that he is wearing his helmet. It's true that many
kids do not wear helmets, especially the older kids and
adults. It means I'm not the coolest mom around. It is
also the law, and occasionally the Berkeley police give out
tickets to kids who are not wearing safety equipment at the
The most important reason, of course, is to protect your
child from serious head injuries. I've spent too many
hours in emergency rooms and rehab centers with patients
with severe life-long disabilities from head injuries. It
can happen more easily than you might think from falling
off a bike or a skateboard. The American Academy of
Pediatrics strongly recommends helmets with scooters,
bikes, skateboards because of the risk of head injury. Good
As a previous poster stated...it's a law, I believe a
federal law that states...paraphrasing if I may, that any
child under 18, riding equipment with WHEELS is required to
wear a helmet. There is a fine, however not enough citing
happens in my estimation.
The coolness factor is just not enough of a reason not to
protect your most precious asset, and keep your brain
rattle-free and inside your skull.
brain buckets all around
First of all, I love that there is such a great skateboard
park in Berkeley. Great place for kids of all ages. But
absolutely they should wear a helmet. Whether you can
enforce it is another question. Certainly the city of
Berkeley has decided that it's can't be. I work a couple
of blocks and I'd say at least once a week there's an
emergency vehicle that goes to deal with someone injured
there. Injuries come with the territory in skateboarding,
but a head injury is too serious to let slide. Let your
kid know that this is a safety issue too big to let go.
Doesn't matter that none of the other kids are doing it.
Following up on this discussion ... I see there was an
article about the skateboard park's helmet laws on July 31
in the Contra Costa Times: ''City steps up efforts to get
helmets on kids at skate park''
In a nutshell, the article says that the Berkeley police
used to hand out $100 tickets to kids without helmets, but
parents complained, so the city instructed the police to
stop ticketing people, saying instead that the city would
have staff enforce the rule.
To quote the article: ''Parks and rec Commissioner Margie
Gurdziel said the current situation is the result of a
community compromise between balancing funds for staffing
and not calling the police.
''We just don't have the funds to staff the park full time,''
Gurdziel said. ''It's a trade-off. I don't know if anyone
would be happy if we reduced the hours and staffed it full
time during the time it was open. People would be jumping
the fence during the time it was closed.''
Hmm ... maybe parents of teens need to let their city
council people know how they feel about this!
I have 2 middle-school age boys who love to skateboard but
who are dead set on NOT wearing helmets. The peer pressure
is overwhelming. They refuse to wear helmets at the local
skate park (where there's a sign that says helmets are
required, but it isn't enforced) because no one there
wears one. Many kids skate to/from school every day, and
none of these kids wear helmets. I am torn between
completely disallowing the boys to skate w/o helmets, and
just giving up the battle (which is risky, I know). I
remember how relentless peer pressure was when I was
growing up, and I don't want to take away one of the
activities that gives them so much enjoyment. If I told
them they could never skate again w/o a helmet, they would
quit. We were on vacation recently in FL and took the boys
to a skate park where kids were doing all sorts of tricks,
and where there were kids on BMX bikes also doing tricks.
Not a single kid had a helmet on!
Does anyone have a similar problem, and how are you
handling it? Any advice is appreciated, thanks.
You are right, the kids are wrong. Stand your ground on the
helmet. Broken bones can be fixed but not a head injury.
Several years ago a 15 year old boy in my neighborhood died
from falling off of his skateboard. He wasn't even doing
dangerous tricks, he just hit his head in the wrong place
when he fell. I hate having the helmet battles with my son
too, but when it comes to safety, I think it's a battle you
need to pick. Of course, I suspect that when I'm not around
my son hides the helmet in the bushes, but I at least feel I
have to make my best effort.
My sister was a physical therapist when my children were
young (she has since become a physician), and she gave us
chilling descriptions of life with a child who has suffered
a head injury. She definitely had patients who had head
injuries suffered while biking or skateboarding, and their
lives and their family's lives were changed forever. Her
advice was no helmet = no bike/skateboard/scooter. We had
no problem enforcing this with our older two when they
reached middle school years, because our community lost a
well-liked teen a few years older than them when he fell
from his skateboard and hit his (helmetless) head. Our
youngest, now 16, is too young to remember that accident.
He thinks we are too rigid on this, but he definitely wears
his helmet, at least when he knows we are around to see. I
found that making this rule as rigid as the seat belt rule
was the only way to make it work.
Queen of Mean
A response and plea for further insights. Yes to helmets. In
my recent perusal of skateboarding injury research I found
some studies indicating that kids are more likely to wear
helmets if parents insist. Yes, it's true they often ditch
them when away from parents. But I think too often parents
are not insisting. My 13 year old is losing skating
privileges for a year because he was skating w/o helmet and
was not where he was supposed to be. How did I find out? He
broke his foot skating on Friday at the plaza near BHS and
called me to pick him up. A helmet wouldn't have prevented
the broken foot, true. This is the second broken bone. With
the first (elbow), if he hadn't been wearing a helmet, he
would have certainly gotten a concussion if not worse (hit
by adult inline skater at Berkeley Skate Park). Now I'm
looking for some constructive consequences for his
non-compliance. (The ban is his father's edict.) Any ideas?
A research paper on head injuries?
A friend's kids were skateboarding last weekend with another
helmetless child who ended up concussed after falling and
hitting his head on a wall. The kids were horrified at the
sight of him. That ''he was lying there not moving'' and also
that ''he wasn't going very fast'' were two good reminders
about why helmets are a good idea. Kids are not great at
forethought, that's why they have parents.
The person who most influenced my two sons to wear their
helmets skateboarding is a guy named Mike who works as a
waiter at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Emeryville. Mike is a
cool tattooed guy in his early 20s who was once a
professional skateboarder but suffered a serious head injury
when he wasn't wearing a helmet. Now he needs assistance to
perform basic life functions. Mike told my boys about the
consequences of not wearing his helmet in a very matter of
fact way, and it had more effect than any lecture or
punishment that I could give them. Bring your kid to Rudy's
for a burger and a chat with Mike. Helmets should not be
optional, and parents need to do everything they can to
enforce their use.
Helmets? Absolutely. I just spent last Friday night in the
emergency room with my 18 year old son. He was terrified,
as were his friends. He was very lucky. Hit the back of
his head going downhill (he still doesn't recall what
happened), banged his face up as well. He had a concussion
and three staples in his scalp. Neither he nor his friends
will go longboarding without helmets. My son realizes that
he could have died.
East Bay Mom
this page was last updated: Apr 11, 2010
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