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You know you're covered when it's a snug fit

July 24, 2006|Hugo Martin | Times Staff Writer

Finding the right helmet for a particular sport is just the first step in protecting your head from injury. The helmet must also fit properly. Wearing an ill-fitting helmet is almost as dangerous as wearing none at all, because a loose-fitting helmet can fly off in an accident.

The following tips apply to most sporting and outdoor recreation helmets, according to safety groups, including the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute in Arlington, Va. Craniums come in various shapes so prepare to spend some time finding a helmet to fit your particular head.

* The helmet should comfortably touch your head on all sides. It should fit so snuggly that it stays in place even when you shake your head violently. Some have pads inside that can be moved to fill any gaps between your head and the helmet.

* The helmet should sit level on your head, with the front just above the eyebrows. If you wear glasses, the helmet should sit just above the frames. When you look upward, the helmet's front rim should be barely visible to your eye.

* Tighten the chin strap so that when you open your mouth wide, you feel the helmet pull down a little. The "Y" on the side of the straps that run down the side of your head should fit just below your ears.

* Test the fit of your helmet by pushing up and back on the front rim. If your helmet moves more than an inch, you need to tighten the Y-section of the chin strap that runs in front of your ears. Push forward and up on the back rim. If your helmet moves more than one inch, tighten the Y-section in back of your ears.

* On one-size-fits-all helmets, tighten the fitting ring until the helmet stays in place even during a violent shake.

* When buying a helmet, look for labels that indicate that it meets the standards set by at least one of these American testing agencies: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Society for Testing and Materials; the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

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