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How Does Wearing a Helmet Protect Your Brain?

How Does Wearing a Helmet Protect Your Brain?

In a traffic crash involving a bicyclist, anything can happen. The bicyclist can sustain many types of injuries that can cause debilitating and lifelong symptoms and complications. They can get thrown off their bikes, crash right into the windshields or hoods of vehicles, or get struck directly – all of which can bring a world of pain to the bicyclist. The rider can significantly reduce the chances of a grave head injury or traumatic brain injury by wearing a helmet when riding. However, a helmet does not always protect from everything.

If a negligent driver hit you on your bike, and you suffered a brain injury, you should discuss your legal options with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible. You might have the right to compensation whether or not you were wearing a helmet when the crash occurred. Never hesitate to seek a free case evaluation from an injury law firm today.

What Is a TBI?

A traumatic brain injury, or a TBI, refers to severe head injuries that one can sustain from many activities, like bicycle accidents, sports, recreational activities, and falls. There are a few different categories of TBIs, and each can cause many severe symptoms and complications.

The most common type of TBI is a concussion, from which the patient can experience a loss of memory immediately after the accident and feel dizzy or disoriented, among other symptoms. They can lose consciousness for about 30 minutes or less, but not everyone loses consciousness with a concussion.

A person suffering from a TBI may experience brain function changes that last much longer than a few minutes after the accident. The effects of a TBI can vary widely and might last for days, weeks, months, or years. Some victims have permanent impairments due to irreversible brain damage.

Several long-term effects of serious TBIs can be inconvenient or very dangerous.

These effects can include:

  • Change or loss in taste and smell
  • Blood pressure irregularities
  • Memory loss
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Degenerative brain disease
  • Personality changes and mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty finding things
  • Speech and communication issues
  • Loss of balance and coordination

Each TBI victim will experience a unique set of effects, and the timeline for healing is wide-ranging.

In What Ways Can a Helmet Protect Me During a Bicycle Accident?

Hard blows cause injuries to the head that cause the brain to move around and crash into the walls of the skull. This movement can lead to brain swelling, contusions, and open skull fractures, which can be fatal if not treated immediately. These injuries can still occur in low-speed collisions.

However, if the rider wears a helmet during a bicycle accident, the helmet absorbs most of the impact. Helmets dissipate the energy so that your head and neck do not take the full force of the blow. The helmet’s inner foam helps decrease the impact by extending the time of head deceleration. In other words, the head takes longer to slow down, so any movement is less abrupt. This foam layer is flexible and crushes, absorbing as much energy as possible.

Helmets decrease the chance of severe head injury by about half. Facial injuries, like broken facial bones, also occur less when a cyclist wears a helmet. Helmets also help to reduce the chance of death occurring from a head injury, though a helmet does not fully eliminate such risks.

The less severe a head injury is, the faster the recovery for the individual, too. The faster they return to their daily routine, the more they can focus on winning the case alongside their lawyer.

Can a Helmet Help Prevent All Types of Head Injuries?

It’s important to remember that no helmet is fully concussion-proof. Helmets mainly protect against how much force is applied to the facial structure, helping to reduce scrapes, skull fractures, and severe lacerations.

However, since a concussion results from internal movement and jostling of the brain, it is difficult for a helmet to protect against them. They come from rotational movement, and helmets protect more against translational movement (moving in the same direction), leading to severe TBIs.

Therefore, riders can reduce the severity of a concussion through a helmet, but the same does not go for the actual concussion. Because of this, many believe that helmets are only effective if they entirely protect against everything.

Nevertheless, helmets provide excellent protection against severe TBIs and other types of serious head injuries that can lead to a long time of healing and medications and many surgeries to fix. Helmets should not provide a sense of overconfidence while on the road; vehicle operators should still always be careful with bicyclists as they drive by them, whether or not they have a helmet on.

How to Know if That Helmet is Best For You?

Some helmets may be better than others, depending on the activity it is for. Based on the requirements and risks of a particular activity, a helmet should suit the activity intentionally. Always wear the correct helmet, and safety or government organizations should accredit it. The helmet should also fit correctly; it should feel snug but comfortable and not move in any direction – not back to front or side to side. The buckle must be adjustable so that it does not move around.

How Are Helmets Tested for Efficacy?

How Are Helmets Tested for Efficacy?Standard laboratory tests consider helmets according to what they are for. For instance, testing for a construction helmet is different from those for bicycling. The standards tested include strap strength, visor attachments, head coverage, and shell configuration. Different types of testing ensure that the helmet will provide as much protection as possible without breaking prematurely. For instance, with impact testing, a helmet turned upside down falls from a height straight onto an anvil flat on the floor. With each drop, the helmet’s orientation changes so that different parts of the helmet get tested against the anvil.

Other tests examine the various helmet parts and their functions. Penetration tests involve letting a knife or other sharp object freefall from a tall height to hit the helmet shell.

Temperature tests examine how well the helmet functions in different environments. They may have exposure to high heat, ice, or water to see how they hold up. The helmet straps also get tested by yanking the strap with a weight. The helmet gets raised with the weight attached to the strap, and then they allow the strap to fall. The sturdiness and efficacy of helmets get thoroughly checked before they hit the shelves.

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Do Helmets “Expire”?

Helmets may seem like they can last forever, but cyclists should replace them now and then. The helmet must be in its best shape to protect the bicyclist’s head. When an accident has occurred, a replacement is necessary, even if the helmet did not sustain many dents.

Helmets work to absorb impact, but once one absorbs any energy, it may not protect to the same degree if there is another accident. Once a helmet gets compromised, even if no damage occurred, a cyclist must replace it, even if they purchased it the day before. It is similar to a car’s airbag – it only gets one accident.

Even a helmet that gets little use will degrade over time. The foam might last you a lifetime if not compromised in an accident, but the other parts of the helmet may not. The bike shell protects the foam underneath, but that plastic can deteriorate with time.

This shell also receives all the heat and light directly from the sun, helping to break it down even faster, especially if the helmet gets used daily. The chin straps are another component that can become more fragile. Once you notice that the slide adjusters and the buckle are hard to adjust and worn out, it’s time to buy a new helmet. Helmets might not have an expiration date, but it is essential to know when to throw them out.

Will Cars Respect Me More if I’m Wearing a Helmet While Bicycling?

Whether the bicyclist wears a helmet, vehicle operators must always maintain responsibility and be alert when passing by or watching out for bicyclists. Unfortunately, this is only sometimes the case. The gear a bicyclist chooses to wear influences how car drivers act toward them.

A shocking study concluded that motorists drive closer to those bicyclists wearing helmets. For those that do not wear any head protection, drivers provide more space. This study revisited two similar studies conducted in the past, and it got the same results!

On average, in one of the previous studies, passing motorists gave about 3.5 inches less space when they saw a bicyclist wearing a helmet. This action may be because they see them as less vulnerable or more professional, or they feel that those bicyclists know what they’re doing more than one who does not have a helmet on.

Motorists should prevent a helmet from dictating how they act on the road with them. They should always provide the required three feet of space when passing them, along with following all other rules.

Also, this should not be an excuse for a cyclist to avoid wearing a helmet. Wearing the right helmet is still the best choice for protection.

Helmet Laws

Each state can set its own laws regarding bicycle helmets. For example, in Colorado, adult bicyclists do not have to wear helmets, even riding on public, crowded streets. Despite this, Colorado is one of the most bike-friendly states, as they have numerous organizations and regulations in place to help protect them. Residents are very enthusiastic about cycling, so the state makes sure they are as safe as possible on the roads and trails without forcing the use of helmets.

The only bicycle situation where the rider must wear a helmet is when a person is riding an electric bicycle. While safety gear is not a requirement, state officials still suggest that bicyclists and drivers always act with utmost responsibility and care while on the road.

Every state has its own requirements, and cyclists should know the rules about helmets in their area.

Can I Still Receive Compensation if I Was Not Wearing a Helmet in a Bicycle Accident?

Yes, you can. Not wearing a helmet in a bicycle accident should not get in the way of you winning your case and obtaining compensation if the other party is liable. Some claims adjusters may try to discourage you from even going after these damages if you were not wearing a helmet, but do not trust what they say. Instead, allow a bicycle accident lawyer to review your situation and advise you whether you have a valid claim.

What Should I Do If I Get Into a Bicycle Accident?

After a bicycle accident, the bicyclist can sustain serious injuries, depending on several factors, such as speed and how the car hit them. Whether wearing a helmet or not, they can still suffer broken bones, severe road rash, or even brain injuries. The first step is to get immediate medical attention so that professionals can assess your condition. You will most likely get several tests and scans done to determine if you have a concussion. You should follow all treatment recommendations.

Once your injuries are in stable condition, you should contact an attorney. Hire a lawyer that has experience in bicycle accidents.

How Can a Bicycle Accident Attorney Help Me?

Once an attorney is up to date on your case and they have the medical bills and records needed, they will work hard to fight for your compensation. You will have many questions that a lawyer can help you with, providing clarity to the process. They will know how to present your case to insurance companies, even if you were not wearing a helmet.

Call Today for Your a Consultation With a Bicycle Accident Attorney

Suffering an injury in a bicycle accident can be devastating for you and your family. Call an experienced and compassionate bicycle accident attorney to discuss your case and what you need to recover compensation for your injuries.

Lauren Varner, Personal Injury Attorney

Lauren is a Personal Injury Attorney. She is Colorado native who became involved with the field of personal injury long before she became an attorney. Lauren’s professional philosophy centers around good old fashioned hard work, producing quality work product, and treating others professionally, with dignity and respect at all times.

Awards and as featured on

Top 40 Under 40 National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 NTL American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 5280 Denver Top Lawyers 10 Best Attorney