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Physician finds most helmets are not properly fitted on young riders

August 25, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange

As if getting children and teenagers to wear a bicycle helmet isn't hard enough, new research shows that putting it on is only half the battle. The first study to examine helmet fit and condition found that only 4% of the 4- to 18-year-olds studied wore the helmets correctly.

Families visiting Dr. Gregory Parkinson, a community physician in Falmouth, Mass., for checkups were asked to complete a questionnaire and then to adjust a helmet. Younger children had a parent's help.

According to Parkinson, the overwhelming majority of the children and their parents -- regardless of age, education, gender or frequency of bicycle use -- did not properly position and fit the helmet. "I did expect a substantial failure rate, but 96% was overwhelming," says Parkinson.

Helmets on about half of the 479 children studied were too high on the forehead or could move too freely between the front of the head and the back. Straps on a third of the children didn't make the necessary "V" around the ears. These problems can expose the forehead, the most common area of impact in bike-related head injuries.

To properly fit a helmet, Parkinson recommends using the phrase "helmet MVP": M is for "move" the helmet down the forehead (less than two fingers above the brow), V is for making a "V" around the ears with the straps and P is for "pulling" the chin strap snug.

The study appeared in the August issue of Pediatrics.

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Dianne Partie Lange

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