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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > What/Where to Buy > Helmets

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Different helmet for each different sport?

Feb 2009

Not that I'm looking to cut corners on protecting my beloved child's skull, but . . . seriously, does every sport require a different helmet? Bike helmet, check, got that. But now we're looking at ski equipment, and that's a different helmet. Rock climbing? Yep, different helmet. Is any crossover use possible here? Our child's bike helmet is actually a ''multisport helmet,'' which I believe means that it is supposed to look cool enough that maybe they'd wear it on a skateboard too. But could it also be worn for rock-climbing or skiing? If there are crucial activity-specific design differentiations, I'll happily stock up on helmets, but it's just not clear to me what makes one helmet different from another. Yeah, you need a helmet, but do you need four?

I have been rock climbing and mountaineering for 30+ years. You don't say what kind of climbing your son is doing. If he is just top roping in the gym or at a small crag where there are no rocks that could come down off the top, then any helmet should be fine. If he is doing real outdoor climbing like in Yosemite, then his helmet must be designed for a top impact to protect from a falling rock or climbing gear dropped by a party above. Bike helmets are not designed for top impacts from rocks. The major danger in biking is side impacts on the ground or road. sean
At least as far as rock-climbing goes, unless it's a particularly precocious kid, a bike helmet should do fine. If they are regularly climbing outdoors, in places that might have falling rock, then of course do it properly. For most situations I'd be perfectly happy taking kids or friends climbing with a bike helmet, and I've seen several non-climbing toddlers at crags wearing bike helmets too. (I'm not a ''professional'' in any sense, but I've been climbing actively for ~15 years.) Scott
I think the best answer is that helmets are designed to withstand different hits...a bike helmet is made to withstand one smack of the pavement -- it is a thin skin of plastic covering Styrofoam. A ski helmet is more rigid and made of different materials. I asked the same questions recently when trying to figure out what helmet my daughters needed for skating (we have bicycle and ski helmets) and came across CPSC's flyer answering some basics...

On the skiing front...make sure that you are wearing a helmet, too! I already assume you are wearing one when you bike... -anon

I asked an expert for you - a friend who runs the mountaineering program at SOU. He said for little guys (toddlers and young kids) doing mild activities, just one helmet is fine.

But around age 8-10 and beyond, when kids are really rippin' down the slopes/on their bike, etc., you absolutely require a different helmet for each sport. He was solid on that idea, regardless how much it sets you back. The beloved skull wins over pocketbook on this one.

Kid helmets for sledding?

Nov 2004

Now that the winter snow season is upon us, we're planning on taking our three-year old and six-year old to the mountains for more sledding and possibly a few ski lessons for the six-year old. I'm wondering about the necessity of snow helmets for the kids. I wouldn't let the kids bike or scooter anywhere without their bike helmets, so I don't know why insisting on wearing a snow helmet for sledding would be any different. However, I haven't seen any other kids wearing them when sledding in the last two years we've gone to the snow. Are the helmets mostly for more active ''big kid'' snow sports like snowboarding, or would they also be appropriate for sledding? I saw a full-grown man on an inner tube plow right into an eight-year-old looking kid last year on a snow hill. The kid, who was just standing around near the bottom of the hill, was sent flying in the air from the impact! Made me think twice about kid safety when sledding. CC

Helmets seem like a good idea to me. Presumably you'll want one that will fit over a warm hat, or some sort of earwarmer that is helmet-compatible. Anon.
It seems like a good idea, even though it's not widely practiced. I feel the same about helmets for ice skating - sounds like a sensible precaution, but almost nobody does it (here, at least). anon
I absolutely agree that children should be wearing a helmet for skiing and I don't think it's a bad idea to put one on for sledding. I think you've already answered your own question. Who cares what everyone else is doing, you need to make sure your child is safe, and think about the example you're setting for others. As you point out, a child can be injured not only from a fall, but also from someone plowing into them. I have attached some information from the Nationla Safe Kids Campaign for your review --it's a great site which deals with injury prevention. The website is Here ya go....
Are Your Kids Safe on the Slopes? 

For many children, winter does not mean an end to outdoor fun. From 
sledding to skiing, snowmobiling to ice skating, children find lots to 
do when the snow starts to fall. Unfortunately, the cold season can also 
lead to tragedy if children are not properly prepared and supervised. 
Head injuries from skiing or snowboarding can be an especially 
dangerous risk. While most ski areas rent or sell helmets for adults 
and children, and recommend their use, they do not require them to be worn.
"A properly worn helmet could mean the difference between a minor 
injury and severe head trauma in the event of a fall," says Martin R. 
Eichelberger, M.D., Director of Emergency Trauma and Burn Services, 
Childrens National Medical Center and CEO, National SAFE KIDS 
Campaign. "Parents should make sure that children wear the proper 
safety equipment when skiing or snowboarding, as well as watch their 
children closely, limit their outdoor playtime and make sure that they 
are dressed appropriately for the weather."

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends the following tips to 
help keep your children safe so they can enjoy a fun-filled winter 
season no matter what activities they're participating in:

Winter Sports and Activities

Parents and caregivers should inspect equipment and the environment 
for possible hazards before children engage in winter activities such 
as sledding, ice skating and skiing. Remind children not to push, shove or 
roughhouse while engaging in sports, and tell them always to wait their 

Snow Skiing and Snowboarding

Each year, more than 17,700 children ages 5 to 14 are treated in 
hospital emergency rooms for snow skiing-related injuries, and nearly 
22,900 are treated for snowboarding-related injuries. 
With a few safety precautions, skiing and snowboarding are sports that 
even young children can enjoy. Parents should make sure children 
follow these suggested precautions:
* Enroll in at least one skiing or snowboarding lesson to start off on 
the right track.
* Use caution when entering and exiting the ski lift.
* Do not ski out of control or go too fast.
* Be aware of other people on the slope.
* Wear a ski helmet and eye protection.
* Wear sun protection, even on cloudy days.
* Never ski alone. Young children should always be supervised by an 


Nearly 13,400 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in emergency rooms 
in 2002 for injuries related to sledding. Parents and caregivers should 
remember the following tips:
* Make sure terrain is free of obstacles and far from traffic. Children 
should sled on packed snow (not ice) that is free of debris. Check 
carefully for snow-covered hazards such as rocks, tree limbs and 
stumps that could endanger sledders or skiers.
* Use equipment that is sturdy and safely constructed. Avoid equipment 
with sharp and jagged edges.
* Look for energy-absorbing pads on sled seats.
* Examine handholds on sleds to be sure they are secure.
* Ensure sleds and toboggans have steering devices that work easily 
and don't jam.
Parents should remind children to:
* Sled only on terrain that is free of obstacles.
* Make sure the bottom of the slope is far from streets and traffic.
* Always use a sled with a steering mechanism. Avoid makeshift sleds.
* Avoid lying flat on the sled while riding down hill. Always sit up 
with feet forward - lying flat increases the chance of head and abdominal 
* Never ride in a sled pulled by a motorized vehicle.
* Make sure the number of children riding on the sled does not exceed 
the manufacturer's recommendations.
Trust your instincts--hope this was helpful. Dana
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