How a girl with half a skull saved my future self on a bike ride

I’ll never forget seeing the image of half her skull missing. The pictures on the wall showed a beautiful teenage girl yet when I looked at her I saw the incision on her head, a young girl not able to speak or feed herself, and an indentation on the right side of her head that I could put my fist into if I wanted to.

I did not want to and it would have been very inappropriate to do so. 

The visual image of her head has never left me and I have never rode my bike without a helmet since. You see, that girl was riding her bike WITHOUT a helmet and she got hit by a car. Changed her life forever. Changed the lives of her parents, siblings, friends, teachers… FOREVER.

I’m not saying the helmet would have completely prevented a head injury or any of the other injuries she sustained but at least she might have had a fighting chance at an opportunity to recover.

When I was a kid riding my bike up and down hills, I never wore a helmet. I biked for miles. I would be gone from home for 2-3 hours feeling the rush of the wind through my hair and on my face. 

After seeing that girl with half a skull, I would never feel the wind blowing through my hair while riding a bike again.

Every time I ride a bike now, I wear a helmet.

Every time my kids ride their bikes, skateboards, and scooters, they wear a helmet.

Although it’s not required in girls’ lacrosse, my daughter wears a helmet. She is often the only girl on the the field besides the goalie wearing a helmet. She used to argue with me about that because she didn’t want to feel different. Then, she got hit in the head with a lacrosse stick twice in 1 game. She was fine… and she’s never questioned me since about wearing her helmet. 

Helmets are NOT perfect. You can still get a concussion while wearing a helmet. You can still get injured while wearing a helmet. If you get hit by a car while riding a bike AND wearing a helmet, you can still get injured, suffer a concussion, or even die.

BUT… there is a reason that professional cyclists, extreme sport athletes, football players, baseball players standing at bat, male lacrosse players, hockey players, construction workers, coal miners, and many service people wear helmets. There is a reason for hard hat work zones.

Helmets REDUCE risk and severity of injury.

Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of injury caused by a direct blow to the head. Would you rather get hit in the head with a lacrosse stick, hockey stick, flying puck, or a 90 mph fast ball with or without a helmet?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not going to feel good to get hit in the head by any of these objects with a helmet on; however, the helmet is designed to absorb some of the impact so that your brain and skull don’t take 100% of it.

If a quarterback gets sacked and his head hits the ground, he may experience a concussion from his head hitting the ground AND from his neck being jerked to the ground and bouncing back. This is whiplash and whiplash causes a TON of concussions.

Why? Because whiplash jerks the neck AND head. The jerking motion of the neck can cause the brain to move around in the skull and even bounce against the hard bone of the skull. 

Sorry to be so graphic. I’m only sharing this with you because that is exactly what can happen when the quarterback gets blindsided and sacked. 

It’s also the same thing that can happen when your head gets jerked around on a roller coaster ride or you get rear-ended in a car accident where your head jerks forward and hits the steering wheel then bounces backward and hits the headrest of your driver's seat. Now you have a direct blow to the head with whiplash and brain movement.

Anyone in any of these situations might feel dazed and confused. They might feel sore like they got beat in a fight. They might not be able to remember what happened or black out. They might feel disoriented, suffer a headache, be sensitive to light, and be quickly irritated about little things. Their personality might seem different like they are "off" or "in the clouds." 

These are all signs and symptoms of a concussion. The truth of the matter is that a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. 

It doesn’t feel good and it certainly isn’t fun. It can be scary for adults and especially scary for kids... and their parents. The road to recovery varies. Symptoms may last only a few minutes or hours but they could also last for weeks, months, and years. 

Helmets are not a cure for concussions but they lessen the risk and severity of a concussion when a direct blow to the head is involved. Helmets don’t take away the effects of whiplash.

Whether it's football, lacrosse, hockey, or cycling, I strongly encourage the use of a properly fitted helmet. It only takes one hit, one fall, one accident and in a blink of an eye, a life can be changed FOREVER.





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