I hate to follow Ho! Ho! Ho! with a Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! but if your Christmas morning was anything like mine, then the kids recreational items were not accompanied by the necessary safety equipment.
As hard as it is to imagine that jolly Ol Saint Nick forgot the helmets for a pediatricians kids, Im gonna cut the big guy some slack. After all, the holiday season is plenty busy, and it must be tough to remember everything when there are 2 billion kids on your Christmas list.
So heres a helmet primer for all you parents out there whose kids got cool stuff like bikes, skateboards, scooters, snowboards, skates and skis last week.
Far and away the most important piece of safety equipment is the helmet. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to realize that your noggin contains some pretty important equipment. The first step is convincing yourself and your kid that its important.
Think of it this way: Remember that college fund? Thats big-time bucks to protect the future training of gray matter that is easily beaten, broken or bruised when its bonked on the pavement without a $25 helmet in place to protect it.
To put it in perspective, there are more than 500,000 bicycle injuries evaluated in the emergency room each year alone, with more than 1,000 related deaths. The majority of these involve head injuries. So protect your investment now with a stylish and cool new helmet.
Next step: picking out the right piece of brain-protecting equipment. Take said noggin (your kids, that is) to the local box store or sporting goods retailer and start trying them on. A good fit means the helmet is sitting flat, not tilted forward or backward. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the front of the helmet should sit two fingerwidths above the eyebrows to protect the forehead (behind which is the frontal cortex the home of personality and executive functioning).
Now heres the hard part. You must fasten the chin strap! That stylish new helmet may look really cool, but its not too effective without a good firm buckle below the chin. Once buckled, it should fit snugly, without much of a wiggle.
Now its time for rules. Yep, rules! First rule: Everyone with a brain should wear a helmet. This is true for cycling, skating, skiing or snowboarding. Parents, this means you, too. Its tough to convince Junior or Little Miss to don a protective piece of equipment without your good example.
Second rule: Every time you cycle, skate, ski or board, you must have your helmet on and properly fastened. No exceptions. I think about the helmet kind of like the ignition. The scooter wont go until the helmet is latched.
Now youre equipped, helmet attached, and ready to have some fun. Get out there and be active with your kids. Your body, your kids and your brain just might thank you.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Health Center in Towaoc.