Giving a bike? Don't forget the helmet

Beaumont neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Kubala fits a child with a bike helmet

If you’re surprising a child with a shiny new bicycle this holiday season, remember to give a helmet, too. The physicians of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) say that accessory could save your child’s life.

Doctors believe bikes — and helmets — make great gifts because they encourage exercise. 

“We doctors want kids to be active every day and to be safe while doing so,” said Mark Kubala, MD, a Beaumont neurosurgeon and member of the TMA Hard Hats for Little Heads Physician Advisory Panel. Kubala actively participates in helmet giveaways in his community with the Jefferson County Medical Society and Alliance to help children enjoy safe cycling.

Wearing a properly fitted helmet appropriate for the sport is key to preventing a serious head injury whether biking, inline or roller-skating, skateboarding, or riding a scooter. An accident can happen in an instant, and it can change a life forever.

Kubala said he has seen many advancements in the treatment of head injuries during his long career, but medical treatments cannot fix everything. When a head injury occurs, depending on the severity, the brain may be injured permanently. Once cells of the brain are injured, doctors can support the brain and hope the cells can recover or that other brain cells will make up for the injured cells.

“Without a doubt, the best treatment for a head injury is prevention,” Dr. Kubala said.

A properly fitted helmet can prevent serious head injuries up to 85 percent of the time; and can help protect a cyclist from injuries to the face, forehead, and neck. But helmets aren’t just important when riding a bike. They can also prevent head injuries in other activities, such as skiing and horseback riding, Kubala said.

TMA recommends the 2-V-1 rule:

• The helmet should fit level on the child’s forehead, allowing no more than two fingers’ worth of space between the helmet and the eyebrows;

• The straps should form a snug “V” around the ears; and

• No more than one finger should fit between the strap and the chin.

“When parents and children are educated about the importance of wearing a helmet, I believe they’ll make the right choice,” said Kubala. “My hope is that we never see a person riding a bicycle without a helmet,” as the neurosurgeon prefers to prevent injury rather than have someone suffer and endure difficult treatment — or a worse fate.

TMA promotes fun exercise and teaches parents and children about the importance of wearing a properly fitted helmet through its Hard Hats for Little Heads bike helmet giveaway program. Since 1994, TMA has given 280,000 helmets to Texas children.