Stories about: Injury Prevention

Data analysis shows bike helmet laws save young lives

Photo by Michael Bentley

Spring is finally making its way to Boston, and with it comes the wonderful outdoor activities that children wait for all winter. Riding a bike usually tops the list, and new research underscores the importance of wearing helmets—no matter how young the child, how short the ride or how safe the street.

A study in the Journal of Pediatrics, conducted by William P. Meehan III, MD, Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH, Rebekah C. Mannix, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and Christopher M. Fischer, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, shows that simply having helmet laws in place results in a 20 percent decrease in death rates and injuries for children younger than 16 who had been in bicycle-motor vehicle collisions. Research has already shown that people who wear helmets while riding a bike have an 88 percent lower risk of brain injury; but the first step is getting people to wear those helmets—and having laws can help.

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Fall safety tips

New England autumn brings with it shorter days, cooler temperatures, and if your house is anything like mine, a hefty amount of football on Sundays. It’s pretty easy to see why fall is my favorite time of the year.

But fall isn’t just beautiful foliage and touch down passes—the season presents some unique safety hazards for kids. Fortunately, when well-informed parents and kids know what to look for, many of these accidents can be avoided.

Pedestrian safety

By now, school is back in full swing. Do your children walk or bike to class? Do they spend the after-school hours playing around the neighborhood? If so make sure they know and follow these safety rules:

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Pediatrics studies SIDS risk in African American families

Lois Lee, MD, MPH

The excitement of decorating a baby’s room is a wonderful rite of passage for every parent. It’s also a big business for manufacturers. If you look in any baby related catalog, the choices for furniture, bedding and toys seems unlimited. But even though having so many options for matching sheets, blankets, crib bumpers and stuffed animals for your baby’s crib may seem appealing, these items put infants at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)* as well as suffocation, strangulation and entrapment.

It is well known that there are significant disparities in some medical conditions between different races and ethnicities, and SIDS risks are no exception. In infants born to black mothers, the rate of SIDS is more than twice that of white, non-Hispanic infants.  In addition, black infants have much higher rates of death due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, often caused by unsafe bedding items.

To better understand the reasons why the use of soft bedding is more prominent in black families, researchers from Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. recently conducted a study of infant bedding practices in black mothers. It’s hoped that by compiling this type of data, the medical community can better identify and educate at-risk families, resulting in safer infant sleep surfaces in the United States.

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Concussions hit local head(lines)

Would you let your child ride on an old, dilapidated carnival ride with a busted safety bar? How about buckle them into a second-generation car seat with fraying, nylon straps?

When the examples are this extreme, the answers are obvious. But what about those situations where safety equipment’s reliability is less clear-cut? For instance, did you know that the age of your child’s helmet may drastically effect its ability to protect the wearer?

Addressing these concerns (and others), the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association recently issued new sports safety guidelines for the 2011-2012 season. Noticeable changes include stricter standards regarding the age and safety of players’ helmets, players that suffer a hit to the head will need medical clearance before returning to play and improved training for coaches, trainers and other adults involved in youth athletics.

William Meehan, MD, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Sports Concussion Clinic says the guidelines represent an increased public awareness about the dangers of concussions and will hopefully go a long way in making local youth sports safer for everyone involved. “The new guidelines are definitely a step in the right direction,” he says. “It’s a huge development for the state of Massachusetts.”

To discuss these changes Meehan was recently interviewed for Fox News.

Preventing concussions in High School sports: MyFoxBOSTON.com

Meehan says helmets, like any other piece of equipment, suffer wear and tear over time, which eventually affects performance. “The inside layer of foam in many of these helmets compresses with every impact,” he says. “Over time the springiness and density of that foam changes. It’s get worn down and eventually doesn’t diminish the force of the hit like a newer helmet would.”

For more information on the subject, please join Dr. Meehan, Marc R. Proctor, MD, director of our Brain Injury Center, and a multidisciplinary team from Children’s, as they discuss concussions in pediatric patients during a live, interactive Webcast. Catch “Tackling Concussions Head On” September 12th at 6 PM ET. To sign-up for the presentation and receive a reminder email, please click here.

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