Put a lid on it
It’s important for your child to wear the right helmet for their favourite winter sport
Plain and simple: helmets save lives. "Some of the most serious and life-changing injuries are injuries to the brain. Helmets are made to protect the brain from concussions and other injuries. Helmets also prevent injuries to the face," explains Kim Cochrane, Injury Prevention Project co-ordinator for Alberta Health Services. "Recent research on skiing and snowboarding found that helmet use can reduce the risk of head injury in these sports by nearly a third."
Choosing the right type of helmet for your child's winter sport is just as important as wearing a helmet.
"Helmets have different safety features depending on the sport, so it matters what kind of helmet your child wears," says Cochrane.
Most ski and snowboarding helmets are single-impact helmets. These are designed to protect your child’s head against a single hard fall, and are only meant to withstand a single fall before being replaced. Multi-impact helmets, like hockey helmets, are designed to keep your child safe with repeated moderate falls or collisions. Either type of helmet must be replaced after a major hit or fall. As soon as you notice a change in the shape of the foam lining, any external damage or missing parts, it is time for a new helmet.
Even helmets in pristine condition need to be replaced as your child grows. And while buying a second-hand helmet might be good for your pocketbook, it can be bad for your child’s safety. If you don't know if a helmet has been in a crash or how old it is, don't buy it. The material, even in new helmets, will dry out and become brittle, so follow the manufacturer's recommendations on when to replace them.
Of course, a helmet only works when it is being worn—and worn properly.
"Whenever possible, let children choose their helmets," Cochrane suggests. "They are more likely to wear something that they have picked out themselves." And don’t wait—as soon as your kids start an activity that requires a helmet, get them into the habit of wearing one.
One of the best ways to get your child into the helmet habit is to be a good role model. "Wearing your helmet, along with other safety gear, when you take part in sports speaks volumes," Cochrane emphasizes. "You set the tone to make safety a family affair."
By ABBY MILLER
A survey by Safe Kids Canada , found 85 percent of Albertan parents support all-age bicycle helmet legislation.
Always have your child try on a helmet before buying it. Their comfort is key, and you should never "guesstimate" fit—you want it to be snug, but not tight. Don't pick a too-big helmet for them to grow into — if they are wearing it now, it should fit now. Buckle the helmet and ask them to shake their head back and forth; the helmet should be level on the top of the head and not move around. The foam pads should touch the head at the front, back, sides and top.
Once the helmet is securely on, check the fit using the "2V1" rule:
You should be able to rest two fingers between your child's eyebrows and the edge of the helmet.
The strap should form a "V" under the child's ear.
One finger should fit between their chin and the chin strap.
Kids shouldn't wear hats of any kind or high ponytails under their helmets, because they will change the way the helmet fits. Many winter helmets are insulated, so there should be no need for toques or other headgear to keep warm.
Choosing the right helmet
Helmets are designed to provide protection specific to certain activities, so it is important to get the right type.
Ski or snowboarding helmet: Sledding/tobogganing, Downhill skiing, Snowboarding
Hockey helmet: Ice skating, Hockey
The Brain Injury Association of Canada recommends children under 10, or who are learning to skate, wear helmets with a face mask or cage.
Look for certification
Hockey helmets sold in Canada must be certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Other helmet certification groups to look for include: Consultants Europe (CE), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Snell. Helmet manufacturers will note the approval somewhere on the product or label.
For more information on helmet safety, visit the Think First or Safe Kids Canada.ca websites. Or download our handout with additional safety information.