Trail Talk: Helmets

Safety and Maintenance Director, Bill Prall

When I began bicycle racing in 1960, bicycle helmets were only used by bicycle racers. They were required by the Amateur Bike League of America, the governing body of amateur bicycle racing in the United States.

However, these helmets were merely padded leather straps that offered very little protection against concussion and head injury in a crash.

When you have 25 – 50 racing cyclists all trying to be first across the finish line, crashes and, sometimes, head injuries will occur. I spent several nights in hospitals under observation, monitored for brain swelling from a head concussion. Fortunately I never had any further issues.

The following are excerpts from a statement developed by the American College of Surgeons on Trauma.

  • Approximately 800 people die and 500,000 people are injured in the U.S. annually due to bicycle-related injuries. Bicycle crashes are the fourth largest contributor to childhood injury costs and quality-of-life losses and the leading cause of injury in school age children.
  • Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by at least 45 percent, brain injury by 33 percent, facial injury by 27 percent and fatal injury by 29 percent.

In June 1994 I was on a mountain bike ride with friends on trails east of Good Hart. I crashed – over the bars and onto my head. Fortunately, I was with friends and there was a Readmond Township emergency crew nearby.

I suffered a severe concussion and a bruised brain. My modern, American National Standards Institute-approved, styro, hardshell helmet cracked apart – as designed – on impact. I spent the next three summer months relearning how to add and subtract.

But, that helmet saved my life.

You can find many opinions regarding bicycle helmet use on the Internet. I’m giving you mine from my personal, real-world experience:


I hope that all you parents will get your children bicycle helmets and wear them yourselves to set an example for your children to follow when you ride together.