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A cyclist is silhouetted while passing underneath West Georgia St. near Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday September 13, 2010. DARRYL DYCK FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL (DARRYL DYCK/DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail)
A cyclist is silhouetted while passing underneath West Georgia St. near Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday September 13, 2010. DARRYL DYCK FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL (DARRYL DYCK/DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail)

Concussion experts took your questions: Do helmets keep you safe? Add to ...

Phil: I used to suffer from seizures which started after I bumped my head (understatement) snowboarding. I can't say for sure that the bump on the head caused the seizures but I can definitely (without a doubt) say that wearing a helmet protects you. I am a volunteer on a local ski patrol and I have seen countless head injuries over the last few years. The good news is that the kids seem to be getting it and I see more and more helmets every year. You can still take a huge whack wearing a helmet but you will always be better off. Get something that protects the back of your head!!!

Anne McIlroy: Are children and adolescents more vulnerable to brain injuries like concussions?

Charles Tator: We should continue supporting more research into the design of better helmets in terms of more protection against concussion and other brain injuries, use in more than one sport, and more "cool".

Guest: I think Dr Tator has it on the nose: RESPECT! I've watched my childrens sports become so much more violent in the last few years that I now shudder every time I see them step on the ice, the field and even our backyard. I think teaching respect is more important than anything in this debate.

Gerry Wilde: Comment on Dr. Tator. Right. What you are saying that the behvioural factor (including behavioural compensation, risk compensation, risk homeostasis) should be taken into account when designing and evaluating the actual impact (pun intended) of safety measures.

Charles Tator: Dear Anne, Yes, the young brain is more vulnerable to injury, and takes longer to recover. That is why we have to be good role models for our kids. Unhelmeted adults who ride bikes with their helmeted kids should ask themselves why they take these risks for themselves and their kids.

injuryfreekarma: Yup, always wear CSA approved helmet when cycling. It feels so good, I forget I'm even wearing it :D

Christopher Miller: Sorry, but I take exception to your stereotype of "helmet haters and bicycle freedom folks". This is a rhetorical trick to avoid the question. What evidence is there that cyclists are more at risk or that car occupants and pedestrians in traffic are less at risk? I understand the point for rough sports with high risk of concussion. I don't understand the specific emphasis on helmets for cyclists alone in non-sport contexts, and am not aware of any studies that compare the risks or statistics for collisions or falls while cycling versus walking versus sitting in a high speed moving vehicle. Do any such studies exist? And thank you for the Natasha Richardson example: I could not recall her name. She fell from a stationary position, not while skiing downhill. Would the same argument not apply to anyone walking on an icy sidewalk, or skating for recreation? I have often slipped and fallen on the sidewalk; I imagine it is pure luck that I have not fallen in such a way that I hit my head with results like poor Ms Richardson.

Gerry Wilde: Comment on Dr. Tator. Again a political issue (remember the election issues in Ontario some time ago?) Older people generally did not like the notion of compulsory helmet wearing. Kids have less electoral influence.

Charles Tator: Enhancing respect is the way to deal with violence and aggression in sports. We must get a culture change. Parents who yell "kill him, get him" at hockey games should be asked to wear helmets with the cage at the back of their heads.

Jeff: While increasing 'respect' for players will reduce the violence in childrens (and pro) hockey, the president of the Ontario Women's Hockey League stated that there was a problem with concussions in her league, even though there is no checking, nor fighting. Respect is important, but accidents will always happen, so improvements in helmet technology are at least as important as changing the culture of hockey.

Neil FitzGerald: 100% Agree on the comment regarding rules, education and respect. To that end, do you think the existing culture(s) of US football and hockey are leading contributors to the problem? Some research from Purdue quoted on PBS recently suggests that a single regular season of high school football is having measurable negative cognitive effects on the players - and this applies to players who have not been concussed at all during the year - just the regular hitting in practice and games. How can we best change the culture of these established sports to protect our children?

injuryfreekarma: Helmets help mitigate risks that are inherent in many high-risk activities. Always check inside the helmet for safety sticker.

Chucky: My wife and I are avid cyclist/triathlete. Last summer she was hit from behind going 10km. The helmet saved her life according to the Doctor. She is still suffering but alive. If helmets save only 1 life it's worth it.

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