Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Have Brain? Wear Helmet.

Okay...this is something of a hot button topic so forgive me if I am exceedingly critical of my helmet-less brethren in the cycling community. But the end of the day you either have to be dangerously foolish or incredibly vain to not wear a helmet every time you get on your bike in 2007. Those are really the only two options and outside of these two circumstances I cannot comprehend why anyone would think it was a good idea to ride without one.

Now, some of you may believe that you have legitimate reasons for not wearing a helmet but in are wrong. There is no good reason. Ever. How long you've been riding or how good a bike handler you are is completely irrelevant. It doesn't matter. The times you need a helmet are the times when there is not a damn thing you can do to save yourself. Period. If you think you are invincible and can avoid any potential hazards...once are either highly ignorant of human physiology and physics or so vain that you are willing to blatantly disregard your own personal safety in an effort to look cool and have the wind in your hair. Not to mention the needless suffering and anguish you will inflict on your loved ones should something happen to you that could have been easily prevented. But look like a real live Euro pro so it's worth it right?

Hopefully I don't have to explain all of the physics and physiology of what happens to your brain and skull composition when you crack your head on the pavement or dirt but in's not real good for you. Even if you are an intelligent, aware human being and have a helmet on, it's not good. In fact, it's actually probably more damaging than we even realize. For example, new studies on NFL players and the effects of post-concussion syndrome and skull trauma on the pituitary gland are shocking and show serious hormonal and psychological problems for many players. Even though most cyclists are already suffering from some psychological issues (why else would we do this) it would follow that a few cracks to the melon (something virtually all racers have experienced) could do some serious damage. Why risk making something that is already inherently dangerous even more so?

I always find myself getting riled up about helmets around this time of year when team camp photos are being plastered everywhere and nearly every pro is shown cruising around without a helmet. What gives? It would be one thing if it were just a publicity and visibility issue but that's not the case. Granted, I am not a professional cyclist but I have raced for a long time and never understood the concept of training without a helmet when you are forced to wear one in competition. It just doesn't make sense.

And what about the helmet sponsors? Doesn't Giro or Bell or whoever care that these pre-season publicity rides rarely have their products displayed? These companies must be aware that their sponsorship dollars are being minimized by the fact that the riders they support would rather show off their latest skullcap or hairdo instead of a pro-quality helmet that is likely responsible for saving thousands and thousands of lives. The large helmet companies need to put their foot down and demand that all publicity shots be taken with helmets on. I mean, why not? Otherwise they are not getting proper value for their investment and diminishing the importance of their product. I've always been surprised that it is not a bigger issue for sponsors.

I happened upon a cycling team's website recently that was openly against a proposed helmet law in Canada. Their statement was: "We don't like riding with helmets, helmet use should be a choice, not a law."

Okay...roughly translated from Canadian, I take that to mean: "We are boldy foolish and choose not to be intelligent, responsible people. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot legislate intelligence. Because even though we won't take minimal steps to ensure our own safety and well-being, we sure as hell will fight those who attempt to force us out of our questionable decision making."

Sadly, I totally agree with them, but really only as it pertains to choice. The old joke when motorcycle helmet laws were being formed was something to the effect of: "A brain so feeble that it does not seek protection is hardly worth saving." Self preservation is likely the most critical of the basic human instincts and those that lack this intellectual component will probably not be missed too much by society as a whole. But someone will miss them...or at least have to help feed them for the rest of their lives.

I can safely say that I would not be alive today if I didn't wear a helmet. At least that's what the doctors told me. I don't really remember anything about the accident. Or the days before and after it. The lady in the car said she never saw me and I'm guessing there probably wasn't a whole lot I could have done about it even if I saw her. Which I'm guessing I did right before my face and forehead dented the hood of her car beyond repair. Again...just guessing here but I think I probably saw her. The scary truth is that the times you need a helmet are the times when you can't do anything to save yourself.

So, in conclusion...please wear a helmet. Well, but only if you want to. As adults we have a choice but if you choose to use your brain when making the decision of whether or not to wear a may find that if you listen carefully there is a little voice in there pleading with you to help protect it. Listen to that voice. It's smarter than you are.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant!!! Seriously brilliant!

blue squirrel said...

as a racer and the loser of not 1, but 4 i didn't see you altercations with a motor vehicle and one to many training accidents, a helmet has saved my life more than once. the last losing battle with a driver, as i was turning end over end in slow motion, still clicked into my pedals, i ended up flying over the car making an illegal U-turn in front of me, and landing on my head, bike still in tow. the very moment i impacted, i said, thank God i have my helmet on. bad pavement at 30mph gave me a concussion, stitches in my chin [my jaw will never be the same] and over 29 abrasions [of course the ankle ones were the typical racer scrap to the bone]. i also love to see old euro pros not wearing helmets, what are they thinking, how many pros have lost their life, simply because they were not wearing a helmet, probably more than those that dope.

wear a helmet to bed, wear a helmet at work, were a helmet on a date, don't eat green eggs and ham, but wear a helmet.

Anonymous said...

As most everyone does, I also have my own life-saving helmet story.

But I was wondering if you could direct me to the info or study you refer to about long-term psychological effects of head trauma... (I'm sure I could search around, but if you have it handy...thx.)

J.T.A. said...

I have heard stuff like this for a while but in October there was an Outside The Lines feature on the NFL's lack of interest in concussive injuries. Then I heard this on NPR:
and saw another Outside The Lines feature this past Sunday with James Toney and others describing serious testosterone deficiencies and the option of taking HGH as a remedy. Crazy circle there I think. Can't seem to find the links from the ESPN piece. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

My cousin died riding without a helmet. His cycling cap flipped off, he turned to see where it would land and crashed and died. I wear a helmet, not because of that, but because I am not an IDIOT and I know how dangerous cycling is even when you ride safely and defensively. People who train without helmets have very little respect for their riding partners, who are likely the ones who will be crying as they call an ambulance for help.

Anonymous said...

Why worry? Let evolution take its course and in a few years the only riders around will be wearing helmets. If a few lucky bastards squeeze through, good for them, guess it was meant to be.

chris d said...

From someone who'd be dining this evening through a tube were it not for a helmet, rant on. Endo'd in a 30mph sprint and augured straight in. Woke up 15 minutes later in the ambulance. Wear a helmet for you and everyone who you love and who loves you.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Had my first "helmet save" many years ago just after the first Bell Biker came out (had been racing with a hairnet before that - in retrospect - very scary). Leading rider slammed on brakes and swerved and down I went. Nice crack on the noggin but rode away from it. Had a major epiphany around 10 years ago when a kid chasing a frisbee from behind a house into the street totally took me out. My first point of contact with the road was my head. Helmet cracked but I still rode home and except for a nice headache (and having to replace the helmet) - no problems. I consider myself a pretty good bike handler and have raced on and off since the mid-70's but no matter how good a bike handler you are, things happen and happen very quickly and some things are just plain unavoidable no matter how good you are.

I can also remember (with a shudder) a teammate of mine getting taken out in a full out finishing sprint, flying around 15 feet through the air and landing on his back and whiplashing the back of his head against the pavement. Got a slight skull fracture out of it but I don't want to think what would have happened without a decent helmet.

Helmet use is still a personal choice but this is one person who has religiously worn helmets for more than 20 years and chooses to never, ever ride without helmet.

Anonymous said...

Wear it. But please make sure it's fitted correctly.

Ralf Nader said...

I wear my helmet all of the time. Especially in the bathroom where most accidents happen. There should also be a law that everyone should be wearing a helmet in their cars, seat belts and airbags are not enough to be safe.

Anonymous said...

xlrogue said...

"I wear my helmet all of the time. Especially in the bathroom where most accidents happen."

And your helmet helps you with your bathroom accidents??? Eeewww--gross!

John said...

Yep, I've got my own story too. Front wheel slipped off elevated asphalt path on a curve, smashed to the ground in what seemed like 1 billionth of a second. As I'm lying on the ground I realized my head hurt. Reached up to touch my head and realized I was wearing a helmet AND my head really hurt. Blood, helmet cracked in 2 places, emergency room. Helmet saved me from a fate worse then death...being brain dead.

Story 2 - Friend and super athlete (I still miss Scott) who could ride 200 miles in 24 hours on a full suspension mounting bike died while riding helmetless to work. Bike meets mini van. Biker without helmet loses life. Age: 27. IQ: Genius Risk Profile: Extreme Family: Ready to settle down, found the girl of his dreams. What a waste, all for lack of a helmet.

Anonymous said...

I have no life-saving helmet stories. Yes, I'll say it. I ride about 30% of the time without a helmet.

McBean said...

I love my helmet,
my helmet loves me.
When I wear my helmet
I'm as happy as can be!