Go Ahead – Shoot Your Eye Out

Really. See if I care.

On a mid-day shuffle to the bank yesterday, I caught an earful on a story affecting the local Denver community (and Colorado as a whole): there’s a proposed law on the slate to make it mandatory for kids to wear helmets. Scooters, bikes, skateboards, in-line skates…yup. Put a lid on it, kids. And some folks are crying “nannyism,” that it’s the government stepping into the role of parent.

Holy hell – it’s no different than parents do when they pack their kids away for 8 hours of babysitting each day at school, right?

I don’t have children (but do hope to in some fashion one day), so I have my opinions. What I’m unwavering about is my steadfast belief that if I spent 9 months and however many hours of labor to get that kid into the world, a helmet is the least I can do for their head.

Now, until law is passed, do what you will with your own head and your kids’. But I’ll offer you a perspective that might change your mind about the inherent wisdom of placing your brain in a bucket:

Look to the pros.

It’s nice that you live in a safe neighborhood. It’s lovely you are always there to keep an eye on your kids. Last I checked, however, you’re not a superhero and you lack frickin’ matter-controlling laser beams that shoot our of your frickin’ eyes.

Look to the pros.

Imagine the dedication it takes to become a professional athlete. Time, energy, sacrifice. Professional athletes wear helmets.

Cyclists: helmets.

Skateboarders: helmets.

Football and Baseball players: helmets.

Motocross riders: helmets.

Motorcycle racers: helmets.

Snowboarders: helmets.

Skiiers: helmets.

Ice Climbers: helmets.

Speed Skaters: helmets.

Are you catchin’ my drift? If your brain is on the concrete, you don’t get a second chance to improve your skills…in sports, life or business. Next time you think you know better, consider the practice of perhaps looking a little uncool and acting more like the people who are cooler than we will ever be because of their dedication and hard work to a discipline they love.

But why do pros wear helmets? Aside from most sports governing bodies requiring the practice, they understand that safety is a key aspect of becoming successful at what they love. Most of the time, you’re not worries about your mistakes – you’re worried about the mistakes of others that can send you crashing down. Flukes, bad timing, plain old bad luck. Whether you’re working on becoming proficient and the best you can ever be or simply trying to get through another day of the rigors, the understanding of safety allows you to take chances. Experience the moments of greatness where you exceed your own bounds. Be a kid, in essence. Push yourself beyond your limits with glee. And if you slip – you’ve got a backup plan that will give you a better opportunity of trying again than facing the end game.

Get proud. Shoot your eye out. Be your very own Ralphie – I really don’t care. But each day, I learn more and more the value of wearing a helmet (both actual and hypothetical).

I can indulge in wild opportunity. Take chances. I can give something a wing ding and while I might get my bell rung, it’s less likely I’ll get my brain scrambled by something that shouldn’t have done so.

I don’t feel out of place because everyone around me in a sporting atmosphere is wearing a helmet. It’s just what you do.

So look to the pros. If you think you’re so bad ass that you don’t need a helmet, don’t wear one. But consider that there are people out there that know better than you, are better than you. And no matter how good you are, your actual and hypothetical brains all look the same when life sneaks up on you and rings your bell. It’s your choice on whether it’ll be your last ring-a-ding.

15 comments
Todd
Todd

"It's your choice on whether it'll be your last ring-a-ding."That'd be true, except for when wearing a helmet is mandated it no longer becomes your choice.I don't have kids yet, either, and I do think kids should be required to wear helmets until they're old enough to decide whether they want to or not. With adults, however, I think things like helmets and seat belts should be optional. I agree with your conclusion (quoted above) because we allow people to choose to do things that have the potential to kill them slowly, like drinking and smoking. If we can prove smoking kills (just as dead as neglecting to wear a seat belt) and yet it remains legal, people should be able to choose whether they put their own lives at risk when they get in a car or on a bike. If they want to die from stupidity and/or negligence, that is just natural selection.

Todd
Todd

"It's your choice on whether it'll be your last ring-a-ding."That'd be true, except for when wearing a helmet is mandated it no longer becomes your choice.I don't have kids yet, either, and I do think kids should be required to wear helmets until they're old enough to decide whether they want to or not. With adults, however, I think things like helmets and seat belts should be optional. I agree with your conclusion (quoted above) because we allow people to choose to do things that have the potential to kill them slowly, like drinking and smoking. If we can prove smoking kills (just as dead as neglecting to wear a seat belt) and yet it remains legal, people should be able to choose whether they put their own lives at risk when they get in a car or on a bike. If they want to die from stupidity and/or negligence, that is just natural selection.

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

I am glad you asked for statistics. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is how the CDC lists head injuries, so I will use that definition in this post. This data is from the CDC: "Recent data shows that, on average, approximately 1.4 million people sustain a TBI each year in the United States. Of those:50,000 die;235,000 are hospitalized; and1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency department.3Among children ages 0 to 14 years, TBI results in an estimated2,685 deaths;37,000 hospitalizations; and435,000 emergency department visits.75% of all TBI's are mild." Now, the latest data from Colorado is 3,392 TBIs annually. Of which 2,213 were male and 1,179 were female. Overall fatalities from TBIs is 938. Those numbers are high when they are looked at without comparison to the overall population. When you do then those numbers become very small (4.939 million residents of CO; .07% of the population suffers TBIs. .01% are fatal.) Motor vehicles are the leading cause of all TBIs. So if the state legislature is going to be logically consistent, then it should mandate that everyone wear a helmet when riding in a car. Yet, your state legislature does not. Most likely because the cost of enforcement is too much and most citizens in your state would revolt -- or not -- I don't live in CO. Firearm use, suicide, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse are by far more dangerous to Colorado youth than TBIs, at least according to the CDC.So those that do scream nanny state do have a legitimate question when it comes to the use of taxes and regulation. Would I be upset if it was my kid - you bet. Have I witnessed horrendous head injuries -- I live in state that does not require motorcycle helmets -- so yes. That does not mean I would want to have the State tell me what to do or when. To me this sounds like a feel good law during an election year.

lomifeh
lomifeh

But wouldn't that be the reason to wear protection, and to teach children that it is important? Knowing a danger exists, and taking the appropriate actions to deal with it is just smart. The lesson should not be learned with brain damage, or death imho. I'd love to see the actual stats on head injury rates in context. Maybe there are more concussions, but how about deaths or permanent brain damage due to head injuries? In regards to the law, well what is the impetus for the law? Most times these laws come into being due to public costs relating to health care, accident response, or economic impact in some form. That is why we the seat belt laws came into being, it started costing too much in terms of money and lives.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Strange how we can learn something so valuable at age 13! Sucks that sometimes a smack-down is what brings us our lessons in life, but I'm glad your son is AOK and moving forward with all his bits and pieces willingly protected. :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks, Mike - it wasn't just a post about the proposed Colorado helmet laws for minors. It's also about humility and understanding that there's value in "training with a net." Appreciate you stopping by!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Erroin,Differing views are always welcome here at Redhead Writing. However, I never said that increased production doesn't mean a proportionate increase in risk. Nor have I said that we can be "protected from everything." God only knows, I personally understand that we can get hurt. However, my point is that it's a shitty choice to make to say the law is "nannyism" - those same people won't be crying foul when it's their kid who is in a pine box instead of recovering from a concussion.Ever seen the flattened head of a motorcyclist who went head-to-head (literally) with a car? I have. Something I never care to see again. When you pick up track cycling or rock climbing and want to do so without a helmet, let me know. I'll bring my video camera. Just sayin'.

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

I disagree with you on this. Especially the sports you mention as examples. Football: Due to the helmet rule there are more helmet-to-helmet hits that have led to more concussions. The greater improvement in the helmets the harder the hits have become. Take away the helmets - or at least go back to the flimsy leather ones - and you'll see less hits to the head. Skateboarding | Snowboarding | BMX: wearing helmets and other protection have let those athletes try more daring and dangerous tricks pushing the envelope for their bodies. The point being whenever there is an increase in protection there is an increase in risk taking. It is proportionate. In the end we cannot be protected from everything. Life is dangerous. Living is hazardous to one's health. We are going to get hurt. We learn from our falls and our pain as well as our triumphs, why would anyone want to take that away?Now I know there is going to be some backlash for this comment and that is okay, as I might be wearing a helmet when they come, but it is by my choice and not mandated by someone else.

Kristen Race, Ph.D.
Kristen Race, Ph.D.

I normally opt for natural consequences when kids put up a fight about something we know is in their best interest (i.e. if you don't want to wear a coat, go ahead and freeze I'll bet you wear one next time). However, I draw the line when it comes to protecting their noggins. I am a self-proclaimed brain geek and know too well how each little knock can impact the rest of their life. Great article Erika! Don't the people fighting this have something better to do with their time?

kristenrace
kristenrace

I normally opt for natural consequences when kids put up a fight about something we know is in their best interest (i.e. if you don't want to wear a coat, go ahead and freeze I'll bet you wear one next time). However, I draw the line when it comes to protecting their noggins. I am a self-proclaimed brain geek and know too well how each little knock can impact the rest of their life. Great article Erika! Don't the people fighting this have something better to do with their time?

Mike Stenger
Mike Stenger

Great point Erika. I was kind of trying to figure out where this story was going but it ended well!Thinking you know is just as bad, if not worse, than not knowing. There's a reason why pro's do this and do that and it's usually because it freakin' works! Don't act all big and bad like nothing can stop you or you already "know"...just be honest with yourself. Now that's some great advice for any business owner if I do say so myself...

terp330
terp330

I couldn't agree more with the proposal. Not requiring young children to wear helmets for the listed activities is analogous to not vaccinating your children before they enter school. Parents who feel they do not want "big brother" telling them what to do should be charged, at a minimum, with child endangerment if a helmetless kid is hurt. I run an organ procurement organization and we recover organs for transplant. We constantly see fatally-injured juveniles who became organ donors who might have survived their accident had the parent been more aware of the dangers of the activity. Regardless of how well the child is trained, not providing appropriate protection is unconscionable. To oppose this law is totally irresponsible. In fact, those states that do not mandate helmets on motorcyclists and skiers should impose sucha mandate.

wendy
wendy

If only the pro cyclists in Boulder always wore helmets. Many's the day I see them protecting their noggins with a wool hat. But it's nice the sport changed to rules to helmets during races. You don't have to go back very far to see Lance winning stages in a cap.

jim
jim

My 13-y-o son went out for a bike ride one day about four years ago, and the next thing he knew he woke up in the hospital. He still has no recollection of what happened in between, but he does know he earned a concussion from a ride through his cul-de-sac neighborhood. He wouldn't dream of not wearing a helmet anymore. He wanted a skateboard for his birthday this year, and so I got it for him -- and he insisted on safety gear for his head, elbows, hands, and knees. Nothing like experience to teach you. Fortunately, in his case, he had no permanent injuries.

lomifeh
lomifeh

I am a father, and the ones crying foul are tools. The only reason there may be a law is because of parents too dumb to do so for their kids normally.