Helmet use reduces risk of injury by up to 88%


PARENTS ARE putting their children at risk of serious and life-changing injury by allowing them to cycle without safety helmets, according to a brain injury charity that opened an awareness campaign on the issue this week.

The Peter Bradley Foundation, which provides services to people with an acquired brain injury (ABI), yesterday unveiled its Mind Your Headcampaign to encourage parents to think twice about letting children cycle without protective headgear.

The campaign will also seek to raise awareness of the "serious consequences" of not wearing protective headgear in various everyday situations such as cycling, working or playing sports.

The foundation's chief executive, Barbara O'Connell, said: "It makes me sick when I hear people saying that wearing a helmet reduces the enjoyment of cycling or will stop people from taking up cycling.

"Anyone who has that attitude should come and visit one of our residences and see the terrible consequences and life-long injuries which are suffered by people with an acquired brain injury as a result of a cycling accident."

She appealed to parents to ensure that children cycling to school wear a helmet even if they don't believe it's "cool".

"As parents we have a responsibility to try to keep our children safe and much better that we have the daily argument than to be living with the consequences for the rest of our lives, should they suffer an acquired brain injury as a result of an accident," she said.

Road Safety Authority figures show 198 children under 14 died on the State's roads between 1997 and 2006, with some 14 per cent the result of cycling accidents. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head or brain injury by 65-88 per cent.

"The World Health Organisation estimates that the chances of serious head trauma and lifelong disabilities can be reduced by an incredible 69 per cent when a helmet is worn during a collision," Ms O'Connell said.

Consultant neurologist Dr Orla Hardiman said serious brain injury could occur from a bang on the head, even if there was no skull fracture involved.

She had recently seen a patient who had spent over nine months in hospital with "appalling injuries" as a result of a collision with another cyclist, she said.

"The more severe ones would be where you get fractures on the base part of the skull bone. That can cause all sorts of damage to the sensitive structures of the brain that control things like breathing and eye-movement.

"The helmet will absorb some of the impact and reduce those sorts of injuries. It's certainly better to wear one."

Barbara O'Connell and her husband, Maurice O'Connell, founded the Peter Bradley Foundation in partnership with the HSE (East Coast) in 2000. Her brother Peter suffered an acquired brain injury following a motor accident.

About 10,000 people a year in Ireland suffer a head injury and face a "dramatically altered" life as a result, according to the foundation.