Riding bikes: It’s a fabulous way to explore, it’s good exercise and pedaling is just plain fun — especially in Northern Nevada.
But it’s important for people of all ages to enjoy this pastime safely. Each year, 300,000 children go to the emergency room due to injuries from bike accidents, with head injuries being the most common and most serious.
READ MORE IN 2019 BIKE & REC GUIDE: This story is adapted from the 2019 edition of the Sierra Nevada Bike & Recreation Guide, a specialty publication of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Sierra Nevada Media Group. Pick up a hard copy at various locations throughout the greater Carson-Tahoe region, or go here to read the digital version.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, properly-fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45 percent — yet, less than half of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.
And that’s just children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2015 in the United States, there were almost 467,000 bicycle-related injuries.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy a pedal around our beautiful region, but it does mean that wearing a helmet is the most important thing when it comes to bike safety, and it could save your life.
PROPERLY FITTING HELMETS
Children model by example, so make sure you and your child wear a helmet designed specifically for cycling and approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here’s how it should fit:
• Snugly, without rocking forward, backward or side to side.
• Sitting low on the forehead — just one or two fingers width above the eyebrows, providing maximum coverage and protection without impeding vision.
• With the straps of the helmet forming a “V” under your ears when buckled — the strap should be snug but comfortable.
• With the back of the helmet covering the bony part of the skull.
• With no more than one or two fingers fitting between the strap and the chin when buckled, so that when you open your mouth wide the helmet hugs your head and the buckle is flat against your skin.
When you buy a helmet, ask the sales associate to help you get the right fit so you know you’re safe from day one.
But let’s assume you’ve done your due diligence and worn a helmet. Unfortunately, accidents still happen, and when they do, it’s important to know what to do. Let’s talk a little about concussion safety.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that comes from a direct or indirect impact to the head or body. During this impact, the brain is shaken or jarred, which may cause some bruising of the brain.
This can occur without a loss of consciousness. Children are more susceptible to brain injury and its long-term effects because their brains are still developing. Any blow to your head, neck or upper body can result in a concussion.
Some signs to watch for include:
• Blurred vision
• Difficulty with thinking, attention or memory
• Sensitivity to noise or light
• Ringing in the ears
• Changes in hearing
• Double vision
• Changes in behavior
• Balance issues
If you suspect you or someone else has suffered a concussion, see a medical provider. Initial treatment varies depending on the severity of the injury.
Rest, avoiding vigorous activity and a reduced school or workload can help with recovery. Sometimes, further imaging or follow-up will be required. Be sure to avoid returning to sports and fitness activities until receiving clearance from a provider.
REMEMBER — SAFETY FIRST
So, what are some other tips to consider when taking to the road and trails on two wheels?
• Stay alert. Talk to your children about bicycle safety rules with frequent reminders before each ride. Review and obey traffic laws, go with traffic flow, be predictable, look before turning, watch for parked cars, and make eye contact with drivers at crosswalks.
• Stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of iced water in a small backpack or in the designated holder often built into the bike.
• Stay sun safe. Per the American Academy of Dermatology, wear sunscreen at least 30 SPF or higher, cover all the areas exposed to the sun and reapply sunscreen per the instructions indicated on the specific product you’re using.
Happy cycling in Northern Nevada, everyone.
Edith Berejnaya, APRN, FNP-C, works in the Carson City branch of the Renown Medical Group. Go to www.renown.org to learn more.