13 December 2008

Worth 1000

GruntDoc has a great pic over at his place.

Helmets are mandatory where I live now, but every once in a while I go back to Chicago, and I see someone ride a motorcycle down the street sans helmet. It's always startling to me, and shocking that nobody else takes note of it. It's as if you were at a nice cocktail party and a naked man walked in, poured himself a drink, and left, without any of the other partygoers batting an eyelash. Of course, why would they? It's a perfectly common sight, to them. But I can't get over the "Hey, that dude's not wearing a helmet!" reaction. My friends all think I'm a rube, now.

I learned the value of a helmet firsthand a couple of years ago. I was skiing in icy conditions, in the late afternoon on a cloudy day. The light was really flat and I did not see the six-foot drop-off until I was well into mid-air. In fact, I never did see the drop-off, but I inferred its existence from the absence of snow under my skis. I was going pretty fast and hit hard on my back, with my head whiplashing back onto the hardpacked ice. Due to the helmet, I was merely stunned; I am convinced that I was in subdural territory had my skull been without protection. I've always been conscientious about wearing the brain-bucket; since that day I am downright fanatical. And since one of our ERs is right down the hill from the pass, every skier and boarded who comes in without one gets that lecture.

On that note, they picked up fifteen inches of snow last night and should be opening up soon. I can't wait!


  1. I have a close relationship with my helmet as well. Out skiing last year, I had just gone off a jump when someone cut across the hill below the jump. I'm not quite sure what happened, although the deep gash in my helmet gives me reason to suspect that his board and my head connected.

    In college, I used to ride my bike around the small city I was in, helmet-less... until one day I saw someone sans helmet get hit by a car.

    Keep those snow-dances coming... I'm itchin' to hit the mountains!

  2. Paragliding, skiing, mtn biking, motorcycling...I am one with my helmets and probably own about $2000 dollars worth of them...

    small price to pay to protect a brain I am currently investing $350,000 into with med school...

    heading your way this upcoming weekend for 14 days of backcountry skiing in the cascades and southern BC...glad to see you guys are getting dumped on!

  3. Sometimes I feel like my closet is half full of helmets (bicycle, motorcycle, snowboard, ice hockey...), but I wouldn't go out without one.

    I'm also from a helmet-optional state originally and it kind of freaks me out every time I go back, particularly in the winter when the helmetless riders are also increasing their risk of hypothermia. I'm sure the chilly-brain judgment skills + lack of protection works out pretty badly for some of them.

  4. As a horse person, it amazes me how many people go sans helmet when they get on 1200+ pound beasts with minds of their own, sharp hooves, the ability to stop and turn on a dime, and a highly tuned predator avoidance instinct that can become blind panic.

    I count myself lucky that I have had fewer injuries per hour spent riding than the average horse person, but I have had my noggin bounced off a tree branch once and the ground several times, and I am glad that I have had protective high density foam to absorb some of the impact. No, helmets are not perfect and do not guarantee that you will not pay the ultimate price for choosing to participate in a risky sport, but they beat the alternative!

    Despite all that, I am scared that I will hurt myself should I go skiing! I guess it's because I'm a complete klutz when I have to rely on my own two feet.

  5. What really throws ME over the edge is this--people who cross the state line on their way to Bike Week, and take their helmets OFF as soon as they get into FL. Trust me, we don't have any special mojo, judging from the number of fatalities every year. When I was still working in the OR, it was truly staggering. Dumb.

  6. As a horse person, it amazes me how many people go sans helmet when they get on 1200+ pound beasts with minds of their own, sharp hooves, the ability to stop and turn on a dime, and a highly tuned predator avoidance instinct that can become blind panic.

    I haven't ridden in quite a few years, but never used to wear a helmet (except at a show or event) and was really fortunate never to have a head injury considering the kind of risks I took. I would definitely wear one now that I've stopped being immortal.

    As far as donor cycle helmets go, they're mandated in our state, too, but a lot of people still go without. Makes me wonder how well the cops are enforcing this law.

  7. it saddens me to think helmets are not required in so many states.

    i'll never forget seeing a guy on a motorcycle speeding up I-95 in Miami, wearing one of those fancy jackets with the spine protection. no helmet though.

    i hate to say it, but i hope he's an organ donor.

  8. I'd support state legislation requiring an opt-out rather than opt-in organ donor consent, for anyone that applies for a motorcycle license.

  9. Wasn't wearing one when I broke a few vertebrae in a skiing accident, but in that particular case it wasn't my head that needed protecting. Similar circumstances to yours, but when I hit the ground again after the drop I managed to land right on on a log.

    However, helmets have protected my noggin on multiple occasions while rock climbing and mountaineering, and I never climb without one.

  10. I don't disagree that they are a net positive, but they can also lead to taking more risks than you might otherwise, and there are lots of things they wont protect you from...

  11. "they can also lead to taking more risks than you might otherwise."

    I just don't get this logic. Nevermind the fact that the simple act of not wearing the helmet is a bigger risk than any non-stuntman will ever take on a bike. It just defies common sense to claim that the presence of the helmet would lead to risk-taking; quite the opposite -- I suspect that riders who wear protection are probably more risk-averse.

  12. I've gotten more concussions from a class room than from outdoor sports. I don't mean a bump on the head, I mean a 5 day headache concussion verified by a doctor. I drop something on the floor, lean over to pick it up, straighten up, then hit my head on those institutional tables. Ouch.

  13. Doc,

    You can't legislate safety any more than you can legislate morality.

    There is a difference between "education" and "coercion" - it's called "responsibility".

    In stead of treating everyone like children; treat adults like adults - let 'em make their choices and live with the consequences.

    EVEN with helmets, motorcycles are far more "dangerous" than cars. If safety was your goal - why not ban motorcycles all together? Heck, force everyone to use mass-transit while we are at it so that we can avoid even the car casualty statistics on our roads....



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