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Old 05-07-12, 10:11 PM   #1
Old School
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Another helmet save

I was riding a familiar section of single track on my mountain bike Saturday afternoon. Going downhill at moderate speed when all of a sudden I was on the ground with my helmet grinding along the gravel-strewn trail. Aside from some minor abrasions and torn Lycra, I was fine. My helmet was another matter -- it was destroyed. I tried to imagine that damage to my head had I not been wearing a helmet. At best I would have been in ICU with a traumatic brain injury and at worst... Oh, and the bike was fine.

If you want to see what happens to your head hitting the ground without a helmet, try dropping a cantaloup from an 8-foot step ladder. Guess I just became the new "poster boy" for bicycle helmet safety!
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Old 05-07-12, 10:25 PM   #2
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There is a difference in riding TRAILS and riding ROAD -- namely, TRACTION. A fall on a trail is pretty much what the helmet is designed to handle. Being knocked over by a car is beyond the capability of ANY helmet.

Anyone rolling dirt without a helmet is just asking for "dain bramage". The fact that I enjoy trail riding is one of only two reasons I still own a helmet. (The other is organized rides that require them)

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Old 05-07-12, 10:35 PM   #3
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Dangerous business, starting threads on helmet safety outside A&S. Tends to become very controversial very fast. Suffice it to say that many many more people claim that their helmets saved their lives, than ever died from head injuries before helmets became fashionable.
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Old 05-07-12, 10:55 PM   #4
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I'm glad you're okay, OS. Have a beer then go buy a new helmet.
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Old 05-07-12, 11:41 PM   #5
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For those of us that believe in Helmets no extra proof is needed. For those who do not not proof is enough. That is just how it is even on motorcycles. When I lost my Lapierre to a car that cut me off and stoped short I hit the back bumper and flew over the trunk into the back window of the car. Much like the NHSTA studies show my head with helmet impacted the rear window first and I punched a bowling ball sized hole in the window traveling at 18 MPH. Glad you are OK. I got a great deal on a new helmet at Performance that is even better than the one I had before.
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Old 05-08-12, 12:32 AM   #6
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There is a difference in riding TRAILS and riding ROAD -- namely, TRACTION. A fall on a trail is pretty much what the helmet is designed to handle. Being knocked over by a car is beyond the capability of ANY helmet.
Trail riding and it was a bad fall and new helmet about every 12 months. I got into the habit of having two helmets so that I could ride the next week without going to the LBS. But the worst fall I had was on the road. Caught some black ice and over I went. I slid pretty well but had a bit of a headache from the bang on the black stuff. The Ice saved the clothing with just a few scuff marks but a few miles later I still had the headache so stopped to take an aspirin. My co-rider suggested I take off the helmet and look at it. The side of the helmet was almost worn through from the contact with the asphalt. If I were not wearing the helmet- that would have been my temple.

But worst helmet damage happened to my mate offroad. Hit a rock at speed and up he went and landed on his helmet. After getting him off to A&E for 32 stitches inside his cheek and 32 oputside- we picked up the pieces of his helmet. I mean pieces- it was a plastic bag job.
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Old 05-08-12, 12:39 AM   #7
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Glad you are OK. No stories needed here... I owe my life to a helmet 3 times!
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Old 05-08-12, 08:07 AM   #8
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I had no idea that helmet wearing is controversial. I've had two falls where my helmet hit the pavement hard enough to crack the styrofoam lining. I'm glad my helmet and not my head took those blows. I think I'll keep wearing a helmet when I ride.
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Old 05-08-12, 08:44 AM   #9
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I had no idea that helmet wearing is controversial. I've had two falls where my helmet hit the pavement hard enough to crack the styrofoam lining. I'm glad my helmet and not my head took those blows. I think I'll keep wearing a helmet when I ride.
That is fine, people should do what they feel best with. The only reason helmet wearing is controversial is that some places are foolish enough to legislate to make it compulsory, and despite the weight of anecdote (this thread is an example) the evidence does not indicate that increasing use of helmets has made a measurable difference to the incidence of serious injury or death to cyclists.

The problem with the anecdotes is this. Understandably enough, people assume that if their helmets suffer damage, that their heads would have suffered equal or worse damage were they unhelmeted. This isn't always true, by any means. In particular, people are impressed when their helmets shatter and assume their skulls might have shattered in similar circumstances. In fact, however, a helmet that has shattered has almost certainly not done its job. Helmets work by having the outer casing remain intact and the liner compressing to absorb impact. If they break, that simply means the forces involved have overwhelmed them and that most of the force of the impact will have been transmitted to the head anyway.

Helmets are very good at what they are tested to do, namely absorb relatively small amounts of energy from low-speed impacts. They probably save a lot of minor injuries to scalps. It's very unlikely, given their construction, that they save many people from death or serious brain injury, and that seems to be borne out by the accident statistics.

So like I say, people should do what they want to do. But the case for helmets is very far from being as obvious as anecdote would lead you to believe.
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Old 05-08-12, 09:00 AM   #10
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Well said chasm54. Only the fundraising rides require helmets, probably for insurance purposes. Most local organized club or group rides have abandoned the mandatory helmet rule. On those it's usually 60-40 with the helmets in the majority. For the most part it's those over 40 with helmets and the younger ones without. Of course there are exceptions on both sides of the age groups. The point is that no one demands that others do as they do any more, and people get along much better.

There are preachers on both sides of the argument but for the most part they are categorized as someone who sits at home in the closet wearing aluminum foil on their head.

Personally, I don't judge or preach either way.
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Old 05-08-12, 09:34 AM   #11
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That is fine, people should do what they feel best with. The only reason helmet wearing is controversial is that some places are foolish enough to legislate to make it compulsory, and despite the weight of anecdote (this thread is an example) the evidence does not indicate that increasing use of helmets has made a measurable difference to the incidence of serious injury or death to cyclists.

The problem with the anecdotes is this. Understandably enough, people assume that if their helmets suffer damage, that their heads would have suffered equal or worse damage were they unhelmeted. This isn't always true, by any means. In particular, people are impressed when their helmets shatter and assume their skulls might have shattered in similar circumstances. In fact, however, a helmet that has shattered has almost certainly not done its job. Helmets work by having the outer casing remain intact and the liner compressing to absorb impact. If they break, that simply means the forces involved have overwhelmed them and that most of the force of the impact will have been transmitted to the head anyway.

Helmets are very good at what they are tested to do, namely absorb relatively small amounts of energy from low-speed impacts. They probably save a lot of minor injuries to scalps. It's very unlikely, given their construction, that they save many people from death or serious brain injury, and that seems to be borne out by the accident statistics.

So like I say, people should do what they want to do. But the case for helmets is very far from being as obvious as anecdote would lead you to believe.
I agree there are two sides and like I said the two sides simply look at the world differently. The only real studies we have are the NHTSA, Consumer Product safty comission, IIHS and the New England Journal of Medicine. And while they all support helmet use they can't say what a person should do. In fact there are many people today that still don't believe in Seat Belts as seen by the many tickets that are issued every month.

But as for club rides most I know of still require a helmet to join the group. Still people have to admit that if your head is sliding along the pavement enough to scrape the side of a helmet down a 16th of in inch the same slide would give someone more than a haircut. Not that they don't have to right to take that risk.

But just as an aside, many motorcycle helmet laws have been overturned in many states and I now see far more motorcycle riders without them. So there will never be an agreement between people on what makes anything safer.

Still I am pretty sure the accidents described so far like mine would have been more serious had the rider not been wearing a helmet even if some others might believe my head alone would have punched through a car rear window without injury to my head.
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Old 05-08-12, 09:53 AM   #12
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We all need a reminder from time to time. Its getting warm out there and the temptation to let the breeze drift over the top of my bald head is alluring. I do owe my life to a helmet. I did the lawn dart over the handle bars on a mountain bike ride. Suffered a Hangman's/Christopher Reeve break C1 and C2. And it happened suddenly at a moderate speed. Glad you are OK. Helmets are cheap compared to loss of mobility or life.
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Old 05-08-12, 10:00 AM   #13
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Glad you are ok. I'm still wearing my helmet.
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Old 05-08-12, 10:06 AM   #14
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I agree there are two sides and like I said the two sides simply look at the world differently. The only real studies we have are the NHTSA, Consumer Product safty comission, IIHS and the New England Journal of Medicine. And while they all support helmet use they can't say what a person should do. In fact there are many people today that still don't believe in Seat Belts as seen by the many tickets that are issued .
The problem with many of the studies is that their methodology suffers from obvious shortcomings. And their hypothetical findings tend to conflict with real-world data about the frequency of accidents.

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Still I am pretty sure the accidents described so far like mine would have been more serious had the rider not been wearing a helmet even if some others might believe my head alone would have punched through a car rear window without injury to my head.
There is no doubt that our experiences shape our appraisal of the evidence. In my own case, when I was much younger and even more foolish, I was barrelling down a hill in the wet, had to snatch at my brakes to avoid something and skidded into a panel truck. First contact was made by my head at (a very conservative estimate) upwards of 15mph. I put a serious dent in the door of the truck and was completely unscathed. Had I been wearing a helmet, I have no doubt that I would have assumed that it saved me. But I wasn't. So much for anecdote and assumptions.

Anyway, I'm going to withdraw from this discussion now because we've done very well to keep it civilised so far. And people should draw their own conclusions.
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Old 05-08-12, 10:51 AM   #15
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The problem with many of the studies is that their methodology suffers from obvious shortcomings. And their hypothetical findings tend to conflict with real-world data about the frequency of accidents.



There is no doubt that our experiences shape our appraisal of the evidence. In my own case, when I was much younger and even more foolish, I was barrelling down a hill in the wet, had to snatch at my brakes to avoid something and skidded into a panel truck. First contact was made by my head at (a very conservative estimate) upwards of 15mph. I put a serious dent in the door of the truck and was completely unscathed. Had I been wearing a helmet, I have no doubt that I would have assumed that it saved me. But I wasn't. So much for anecdote and assumptions.

Anyway, I'm going to withdraw from this discussion now because we've done very well to keep it civilised so far. And people should draw their own conclusions.
Once again I agree we have done well. Because I tend to bookmark sites on these issues like I did for NHTSA and New England Journal of Medicine studies have there been any studies showing the phisical safety advantages of not wearing a helmet from organizations or other sources with equal weight we can look at? I know it is hard with only a 2 percent share of the accidents but has anyone bothered or do they care?
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Old 05-08-12, 11:07 AM   #16
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Once again I agree we have done well. Because I tend to bookmark sites on these issues like I did for NHTSA and New England Journal of Medicine studies have there been any studies showing the phisical safety advantages of not wearing a helmet from organizations or other sources with equal weight we can look at? I know it is hard with only a 2 percent share of the accidents but has anyone bothered or do they care?
That ain't easy, my own view is that the data on both sides of the argument is pretty sketchy. But I have found this site to be a useful resource. Irrespective of one's view on its particular perspective, it offers a lot of links to such information as is out there. And again, people should draw their own conclusions.
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Old 05-08-12, 11:32 AM   #17
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That ain't easy, my own view is that the data on both sides of the argument is pretty sketchy. But I have found this site to be a useful resource. Irrespective of one's view on its particular perspective, it offers a lot of links to such information as is out there. And again, people should draw their own conclusions.
Thanks, Bookmarked. I have never been on a Motorcycle, snow mobile or hang Glider without head protection so I know I am biased. I used seat belts before it was the law and bought ABS and Air bags as soon as they became available. I will admit I have supported the Child helmet laws in my state even when they don't include adults. I do understand the idea that helmets tend to keep some people from riding but I never understood why, still don't. I have never taken the safety gard off of my power equipment either yet I know people who do. Too many years working in a ER has made me jaded. This issue does tend to devide us as a group but so do many other issues.
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Old 05-08-12, 11:54 AM   #18
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Thanks, Bookmarked. I have never been on a Motorcycle, snow mobile or hang Glider without head protection so I know I am biased. I used seat belts before it was the law and bought ABS and Air bags as soon as they became available. I will admit I have supported the Child helmet laws in my state even when they don't include adults.
Damn, you're making it difficult for me to withdraw from this thread, as I intended. For the record, I am in favour of small children, and adults who are learning to ride, wearing helmets. They are exactly the group that is most at risk of simple toppling over and banging their heads, and those are exactly the accidents that helmets are designed for. There is no point in people being discouraged from cycling by an early unpleasant experience. As for laws, I dislike compulsion unless the evidence is overwhelming, and it isn't.

Motorbike helmets work, the evidence seems incontrovertible. So do seat belts. But bicycle helmets are a different matter, they provide very little protection. In particular, the physics is clear -they absorb only a tiny fraction of the energy involved in a typical collision with a motor vehicle, and those are the collisions that kill.
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Old 05-08-12, 12:06 PM   #19
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Damn, you're making it difficult for me to withdraw from this thread, as I intended. For the record, I am in favour of small children, and adults who are learning to ride, wearing helmets. They are exactly the group that is most at risk of simple toppling over and banging their heads, and those are exactly the accidents that helmets are designed for. There is no point in people being discouraged from cycling by an early unpleasant experience. As for laws, I dislike compulsion unless the evidence is overwhelming, and it isn't.

Motorbike helmets work, the evidence seems incontrovertible. So do seat belts. But bicycle helmets are a different matter, they provide very little protection. In particular, the physics is clear -they absorb only a tiny fraction of the energy involved in a typical collision with a motor vehicle, and those are the collisions that kill.
You are right again but in the case of motorcycle helmets and child helmets it didn't end the debate as some of those manditory laws are being removed. The two sides in thise cases are still two sides. That is all I am saying. We as a cycling community can't agree on clothing, saddles, what material is best or clipless verses platforms. We can't agree on tire size, or spoke count why should helmets be any different?
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Old 05-08-12, 12:23 PM   #20
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Helmet has saved my head on a few occasions--when I was college age and in the present.
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Old 05-08-12, 06:45 PM   #21
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But bicycle helmets are a different matter, they provide very little protection. In particular, the physics is clear -they absorb only a tiny fraction of the energy involved in a typical collision with a motor vehicle, and those are the collisions that kill.
I think you're wrong in this respect. While it's quite clear that no styrofoam and plastic helmet is going to help in a high speed collision with a car, a low-speed impact with the ground is a much more likely occurrence, and that's the kind that a helmet is designed to address. Wandering off the road, tumbling over a pothole, brushing a curb, or the infamous Tombay make up the great majority of falls. And I would much rather encounter the ground in a helmet during one of those falls than without. Helmets certainly don't have the magical properties that the media ascribe to them. Nonetheless, I don't leave the driveway without one.
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Old 05-08-12, 07:49 PM   #22
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I agree there are two sides and like I said the two sides simply look at the world differently. The only real studies we have are the NHTSA, Consumer Product safty comission, IIHS and the New England Journal of Medicine. And while they all support helmet use they can't say what a person should do. In fact there are many people today that still don't believe in Seat Belts as seen by the many tickets that are issued every month.

But as for club rides most I know of still require a helmet to join the group. Still people have to admit that if your head is sliding along the pavement enough to scrape the side of a helmet down a 16th of in inch the same slide would give someone more than a haircut. Not that they don't have to right to take that risk.

But just as an aside, many motorcycle helmet laws have been overturned in many states and I now see far more motorcycle riders without them. So there will never be an agreement between people on what makes anything safer.

Still I am pretty sure the accidents described so far like mine would have been more serious had the rider not been wearing a helmet even if some others might believe my head alone would have punched through a car rear window without injury to my head.
Unfortunately many of those organizations draw the same conclusion the OP did, that a battle scarred helmet saved one from uncertain death. This may or may not be true, for a couple of reasons. One is that the helmet adds weight to the head, so the physics of motion in a crash are altered. It's the difference between a 3˝ lb object and a 4˝lb object. Second of all, if a helmet cracks or breaks, that helmet failed to do it's job.

The only way to prove that a technology will prevent injury, is the same testing the NHTSA forces the automobile companies to go through, crash testing. You only really need 6 tests, a crash where the rider hits a solid object, helmet first. A crash where the rider hits a breakaway object (like a glass window) helmet first. A crash where the rider lands face first, a crash where the rider goes over the back, landing on the rear of the head, a crash where the rider lands on their side.

These tests would need to be carried out, first without a helmet, then repeated with the helmet in question, to see what the difference is. I think you would see a major redesign of helmets, if you carried out such tests. Crash Test Dummies could be used for these tests.
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Old 05-08-12, 07:55 PM   #23
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One is that the helmet adds weight to the head, so the physics of motion in a crash are altered. It's the difference between a 3˝ lb object and a 4˝lb object. Second of all, if a helmet cracks or breaks, that helmet failed to do it's job.
I hope this is an unsuccessful attempt at humor because it is bordering on utter nonsense.....
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Old 05-08-12, 11:12 PM   #24
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I hope this is an unsuccessful attempt at humor because it is bordering on utter nonsense.....
Nonsense only to the uninformed. It is helpful to read the information available first, before the declaration of what one considers nonsense.
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Old 05-09-12, 12:02 AM   #25
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Unfortunately many of those organizations draw the same conclusion the OP did, that a battle scarred helmet saved one from uncertain death. This may or may not be true, for a couple of reasons. One is that the helmet adds weight to the head, so the physics of motion in a crash are altered. It's the difference between a 3˝ lb object and a 4˝lb object. Second of all, if a helmet cracks or breaks, that helmet failed to do it's job.

The only way to prove that a technology will prevent injury, is the same testing the NHTSA forces the automobile companies to go through, crash testing. You only really need 6 tests, a crash where the rider hits a solid object, helmet first. A crash where the rider hits a breakaway object (like a glass window) helmet first. A crash where the rider lands face first, a crash where the rider goes over the back, landing on the rear of the head, a crash where the rider lands on their side.

These tests would need to be carried out, first without a helmet, then repeated with the helmet in question, to see what the difference is. I think you would see a major redesign of helmets, if you carried out such tests. Crash Test Dummies could be used for these tests.
I contend that it wouldn't matter one bit who or what did the test or how it was done. People that are anti helmet will be anti helmet until they are looking at the wrong side of the grass. It didn't matter to the motorcyclists in several states. It didn't matter to many before the seat belt laws even after the testing. Think of it, people have said here that if a helmet cracks it hasn't done it's job but what if the head without the helmet cracks? When the NHTSA and consumer protection people released their studies they had no agenda and they used the results of those studies to develope child helmet laws. The New England Journal of Medicine and the IIHS might be biased I can't say but I believe even if the test and statistics are there it wouldn't matter to those who believe they don't need a helmet. That is just the way some people are.

We know people shouldn't drink and drive, but people do. We know we shouldn't talk or text while driving but some people do. I know people who will not ride organized cycling events because you have to wear a helmet. That is just the way people are. Is it more dangerous to wear a helmet? If so why force children to wear them? So there is no real answer to this because those of us who believe a helmet offers some protection will see a helmet that has the side scraped down into the foam as saving us from losing part of our skin. Those that don't believe in them will not believe that a helmet would have saved then even while their skin is scabbing over. That is just the way people are.

Just another site I book marked besides the one posted earlier. http://www.bhsi.org/stats.htm#effectiveness

And in real truth in most cases I don't care if people don't feel they need protection it will not stop me from wearing a helmet, gloves and good glasses to protect my eyes. But when someone that feels like I do as the OP did I will always give him a thumbs up for doing and believing as I do. We have something in common that non helmet users do not and that too is just how people are.
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