Bikes are a classic symbol of childhood recreation, transportation and health. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of children ages 5 to 14 ride bicycles. Also, child participation in other wheel-based sports, such as skateboarding and inline skating, has grown exponentially over the past decade.

At the same time, competitive wheeled sports have evolved and skateparks have appeared in our community and across the country.

Unfortunately, bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile. Additionally, more than 176,000 children ages 5 to 14 are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to skateboards, scooters and skates.

Head injury is the leading cause of wheeled sports-related death and the most important determinant of permanent disability after a crash. Head injuries account for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle related hospital admissions and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycling injuries. Without proper protection, a fall of as little as two feet can result in a skull fracture or other traumatic brain injury.

Helmets can avert the serious consequences of a seemingly typical childhood incident such as falling from a bike. When worn correctly and consistently, helmets are very effective at reducing the risk of bicycle-related death and injury and the severity of head injury when a crash occurs. Helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. I see children riding bikes with knee pads and elbow pads but no helmet!!!

I also see children in my neighborhood riding motor bikes with NO helmet. Parents should realize a head injury can affect the future use of the entire body. In many cases a child will not wear a helmet unless a parent sees to it that it is mandatory.