Wear your helmet

Ever since I started riding a bike, my parents would always tell me to wear my helmet. After years of pounding this idea into my brain, it has stuck. Despite the overwhelming amount of kids my age who never wore their helmets, I was always able to make what now seems like the easiest decision ever, to wear my helmet.

In past years, I have found that my peers never wanted to wear a helmet because it didn’t look “cool” or it made them feel “dorky.” At a younger age I just wore my helmet because my parents told me to, yet in more recent years I have found a more meaningful reason.

“Helmets provide protection for the brain,” school nurse Susan Krebs said.

Krebs says that she always wear her helmet and has her daughter do so too no matter where she is going because a fall can happen so quickly. A crash or fall lasting only a few seconds can result in a brain injury that can change your entire life.

On several occasions I have found myself in a group with my peers when we were riding our bikes and the topic of wearing helmets came up. I would immediately take action and ask the people if they wear their helmets while riding their bikes. The responses were always very confident “no ways.” Next would be the complaining about how stupid they would look with a helmet.

The reality is, wearing a helmet can prevent the rider from getting a head or brain injury during a crash. Prevention from a life changing accident seems a lot cooler than looking dorky to me.

“Helmets can reduce up to 88% of head and brain related injuries,” Project Coordinator at Blank Children’s Hospital Janna Day said.

For me I could ask my friends one simple question to help make their helmet wearing decision easier: Would you rather wear a dorky looking helmet that could save your life in a crash, or look cool and put yourself in a situation that could lead to a brain injury?

Day says that it is very important for young riders to wear helmets because the brain is not fully developed until age 25.

“A traumatic brain injury can be a lifelong struggle that you may never fully recover from,” Day said.

Aaron Koethe, a 2009 Johnston graduate, has suffered the effects of a traumatic brain injury due to a bike accident.

When Koethe was 15 he was in an accident while crossing 86th street on his bike with his friends. He went over some gravel and his foot slipped off causing his shorts to get caught in the chain and sending him over his handlebars. He remembered none of this, but was told about it when he woke up in the hospital. He was unable to move anything on the left side of his body.

Koethe was able to regain movement through physical and occupational therapy following his accident.

He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

“When you are that age, wearing a helmet is ‘uncool’,” Koethe said.

Doctors told Koethe that his injuries were worse for himself than the average person because of his past medical conditions. Koethe had brain cancer when he was five and the doctors speculate that the radiation therapy he underwent as part of the cancer recovery process weakened his brain tissue which left his brain more susceptible to head injuries.

Bike World General Manager Justin Sheldon tries to persuade customers to purchase a helmet by making them think of helmets in a different way.

“I try and ask them questions to make them think about what might happen to them if they were to get in an accident and hit their head,” Sheldon said.

Day says that head or brain injuries can be lifelong injuries that people may never recover from. Traumatic injuries could affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, and even eat.

Almost seven years later, Koethe’s life is still affected by the accident.

“I do not have much fine motor movement in my left hand, I have weak ankle strength in my left ankle, my reaction time is a bit slower, and my stamina level is not as high as it used to be,” Koethe said.

Today Koethe rarely rides a bike but says if does, he definitely wears a helmet.

For me, I ride my bike frequently and at higher speeds because I am on a triathlon team. My coach has a rule that you must be wearing a helmet at any time you are touching a bike. This rule is not put in place to embarrass anyone, it is a safety precaution.

It does not matter what speed or how far you are going. Either way, everyone needs to be wearing a helmet while riding a bike.

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