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Pediatrics. 2003 Aug;112(2):320-3.

Bicycle helmet assessment during well visits reveals severe shortcomings in condition and fit.

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Falmouth Pediatric Associates, Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540, USA.



Improper bicycle helmet fit increases the risk of head injury. Information on the rate of proper use of bicycle helmets is lacking. Promotion of helmet use is recommended at well-child and adolescent visits. Actual helmet assessment during such visits has not been reported.


The primary goal of this study is to measure the proportion of children whose helmets are in proper condition and can be made to fit properly by the child and/or parent. The secondary goal is to begin to assess the value and practicality of helmet inspection during well-child and adolescent visits.


The study took place at a private pediatric office in Falmouth, Massachusetts, from June 1 through August 31, 2001. Eligible children and adolescents were those aged 4 to 18 years presenting for well examination, along with siblings present at the visit. Eligible families completed a questionnaire, then had a timed attempt to fit a helmet, followed by an assessment of helmet fit and condition against a predetermined standard.


Eighty-four percent (395/473) of eligible families participated. A total of 479 participants were assessed. Eighty-eight percent of participants (419/478) owned a helmet. Reported helmet use "always" or "almost always" was 73% for bicycling (317/434), 69% for in-line skating (193/279), 58% for scootering (179/310), and 50% for skateboarding (79/158). Compared with younger children, teenagers were less likely to wear helmets for all activities. Complete pass rate for every aspect of condition and fit was 4% (20/478, 95% confidence interval: 3-6). The pass rate when the parent alone fit the helmet was 0% (0/52). Three individual aspects of fit were most problematic: 1) helmet 'resting position' too high on the forehead (pass rate 249/479; 52%), 2) improper strap position (pass rate 157/476; 33%), and 3) excessive movement of the helmet from front to back of the head (pass rate 247/479; 52%). Mean time for questionnaire completion was 4 (standard deviation: +/-1) minutes, and 7 (standard deviation: +/-3) minutes for helmet assessment.


Ninety-six percent of children and adolescents wore helmets in inadequate condition and/or with inadequate fit. This occurred despite a high acceptance of helmet use by this population. Initial evidence suggests that helmet assessment during well visits may be practical and valuable.

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