Monday, March 26, 2018

Hard Hats Save Little (And Big) Heads

Dr. Barker fits a helmet on a child during a
Hard Hats for Little Heads helmet giveaway event.
By Charles O. Barker, MD, Dallas
TMA Hard Hats for Little Heads Physician Advisory Panel member

I have been involved with the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Hard Hats for Little Heads program for a number of years. St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church in Richardson will conduct its 13th Annual Health Fair just before school starts in August, and again, I plan to be there with friends to fit about 100 heads with bike helmets. I do this because it is the right thing to do, the compassionate thing to do, and certainly the family doc thing to do. 

I also have personal reasons for wanting to put hard hats on all our little or not-so-little heads. Those riding bikes, skateboards, and other fast-moving platforms with “naked” heads are especially vulnerable to injury.

During the late 1980s, I trained hard and competed in triathlons. Back then, bike training could be dangerous because much of it was on open roads — some busy — and some on backroads. Today, bike training is even more dangerous, with motor vehicle drivers using electronic devices while driving. Over the years, several of my good bike training buddies lost their lives in this way.

I remember the day I was riding on White Rock Lake Trail, a safe, well-designed trail that runs along Dallas’ White Rock Lake. Frequent locator markers tell you exactly where you are on the trail. If you have a problem, you just call 911 and give the locator number, and help will be on the way. I thought, “How great, if I get into trouble! Thank you, Dallas.” 

I never had to use this safety net, but got really close once. I was bike-riding by myself (shouldn’t have done that!), had my helmet on (thank goodness!), and was on my way back to my car. I rounded a corner a little too fast on the paved trail when my racing tire slipped off the edge of the path into that “not-so-sweet” grass-pavement zone. My attempt to return to the pavement was met with going head over heels onto the concrete. 

The first thing that hit was my “little” head, which was saved only by that “very sweet” helmet. I had never heard that sound before — helmet hitting concrete. If I had not been wearing that helmet, I’m pretty sure I would have been knocked unconscious — or worse. And the location markers would not have done me any good; I was alone and would have been at the mercy of the next passerby.

My experiences have taught me several things can prevent or mitigate brain injuries: 
  1. Bike ride and train only on protected roads or designated biking trails; 
  2. Train with others of equal ability — and stay together; 
  3. Wear a well-fitted helmet; and 
  4. Make sure your bike, its parts, and tires are in good shape. 
Simple. And yet we all fall short of following the good advice. We can do better, right?  Thank goodness I am here to tell the story … and very motivated to put those hard hats on little heads.

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