Last year 15 Utahns lost their lives in bicycle related accidents and 49 experienced serious injuries. That is the deadliest year in Utah for bicycle accidents since the Utah Department of Public Safety started keeping track several years ago.
With summer approaching, Intermountain Health’s safety and trauma teams are reminding bicycle riders of the importance of wearing a helmet and staying safe when riding.
“Kids and adults can be seriously injured, sometimes fatally, if they fall while riding,” said D Millar, MD, Intermountain Health Utah Valley Hospital trauma medical director and surgeon. ““A traumatic brain injury can be life altering and unfortunately, we don’t get to choose how severe of an injury an individual might sustain. The brain is not like a broken bone that we can fix, so we strongly advocate for preventing head injuries.”
Intermountain Health treated more than 2,700 bicycle-related injuries in its emergency departments in Utah and Idaho in 2022.
Adam Stewart, 15, who rides with the Lehi High School Mountain Bike Team was one of those injuries. He has ridden more than 1,100 miles so far this year and knows the importance of wearing a helmet and protecting his head.
Last year, during the Utah High School Cycling State Championships in St. George, Utah, Adam was close to earning a place on the podium and wiped out on the sandy course – hitting his head hard on the ground. He jumped back up and got on his bike, but when he crossed the finish line he didn’t go to the podium, but went straight to the medical tent.
Doctors diagnosed Adam with a mild a concussion and advised him to stay off his bike, stay off electronic screens, and follow concussion protocols.
“Wearing a helmet definitely prevented a more serious head and brain injury from happening,” said Adam. “When I ride, I wear my new helmet and make sure it fits by adjusting the straps.”
Tiffany Stewart, Adam’s mother, said through this experience their family is more aware of helmet and bike safety.
“After Adam rides, he tells us about what went well, what he needs to work on, and if things just feel off,” said Tiffany. “This open communication has helped us as parents support him so he can continue doing what he loves.”
Bicycle related incidents historically rise during the summer months – peaking in July. Some of these traumatic injuries could be prevented by wearing a helmet.
Intermountain trauma experts say a good-fitting helmet should:
- Fit snugly on the head
- Sit level on the head, back to front.
For an optimal fit, use this simple 2-2-2 rule:
- Make sure there is a 2-finger gap between the top of the eyebrow and the front the helmet.
- Use 2 fingers to make a v-shape, and place the v under the earlobe. This is where the straps should sit.
- Turn the 2 fingers sideways and place them flat between the chin and the strap, and adjust the strap as needed.
“It’s important that every rider have a good fitting helmet and parents should help their child put it on before every ride, every time,” said Michelle Jamison, community health programs manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “And we’re not talking just when you’re bicycling. Helmets are important when riding scooters dirt bikes, ATVs, roller blades, skateboards, hoverboards, tricycles, and even balance bikes to help protect those heads.”
On Saturday, May 20, trauma caregivers from Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital, Intermountain American Fork, and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital will set-up at four locations along the Murdock Canal trail in Utah County, conducting helmet fittings, supplying safety information, and conducting safety demonstrations.
“It’s important to us to offer these safety tips to members of the Utah County community so they can avoid a trip to the emergency department,” said Andrew Herrera, Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital trauma coordinator. “We’ve seen the effects of traumatic brain injury, which can be to devastating to families and we want everyone to have a safe summer – by wearing the right gear.”
Helmet Safety, which is part of the Hold on to Dear Life injury prevention program, expands on Intermountain’s commitment to keep children and families healthy in their communities, and is part of the Primary Promise Healthy Kids initiative.