How to help protect children from bicycle injuries

Bicycles account for large number of childhood injuries

DETROIT – Children riding bicycles is an essential part of the summer, but outside of motor vehicles, bicycles account for more childhood injuries than any other consumer product.

A new study by Nationwide Children's Hospital found that more than 2.2 million children were treated in U.S. emergency departments for bicycle-related injuries over a 10-year period, which is about 25 children per hour.

"The good news is that that number was a decrease over that time period," Dr. Lara McKenzie said.

McKenzie said too many children are still being seriously injured on their bicycles, with 11 percent suffering a traumatic brain injury. The best way to reduce the risk is to wear a helmet.

"When kids were wearing a helmet and there was a bike-related injury, they were less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to have a traumatic brain injury," McKenzie said.

Experts recommend that parents shop for a helmet with their child. Side straps should form a "V" around the ears, the chin strap should be snug and there should be a space the width of two fingers between the eyebrows and the edge of the helmet.

Children should stay on the sidewalk until they can learn the rules of the road, experts said.

"Really, we don't recommend that kids younger than 10 ride in the road or ride by themselves without parent supervision," McKenzie said. "Wear a helmet even if you didn't wear a helmet as a kid, and modeling that behavior, helmet-wearing is going to be really beneficial for you and your children."

Experts are also calling on states to enact laws requiring children to wear helmets while riding bicycles. There are currently 21 states with such laws, but Michigan isn't one of them.

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