Falling Down: Older Children

For the population as a whole, falls are the most common cause of unintentional injuries requiring medical care, the leading cause of hospital admissions for trauma, and the second leading cause (after motor vehicle collisions) of unintentional-injury-related deaths.

While older kids do sometimes fall while walking down the street or across a room, most of the time their falls include items that propel them through space – bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades and snowboards, to name a few. In other words, older kids don’t usually just fall, they crash! Some kids love to go, to move, travel. For those who do, teach them to use these devices safely, at the right time, in the right place and with the right people.

Teach your children not to ride at dusk or after dark, since most serious injuries happen then. When they do ride, it should be in the same direction as traffic, and they should stop wherever a blind driveway or alley intersects the street. One out of six kids killed in motor vehicle collisions is riding a bicycle, usually riding against traffic or crossing a driveway.

The most important preventive measure you can take, however, is to build the habit of using proper safety equipment. Helmets are the most important, for the simple reason that the brain is the most important. Helmets reduce the risk of brain injury by 90%. Use only helmets approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American Society for Testing and Materials or the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Making helmets natural and fun is easiest if you start young. Along with the first tricycle comes the first helmet, preferably gift-wrapped to make it fun. Through the years, with each new vehicle comes the proper safety equipment, gift-wrapped and festive. Helmets can be decorated with stickers or glow-in-the-dark-paint. Safety should be seen for what it is – an exciting opportunity to make life even better – not a dull, boring restriction on fun.

When your kids are learning about helmets (or any safety measure) your example is critical. If you ride a bike, they need to see you in a helmet. This is hard for many adults, since most of us grew up before we learned that helmets save lives and brains. We’re used to riding without them, and the change is inconvenient and expensive. Don’t cop out by saying that since you aren’t riding in the street (just on a bike path) that you don’t need a helmet. You do. And so do your kids. Every time that you ride, on the road or off, a helmet protects your head and helps prevent the second leading cause of death from unintentional injury.

Your example is critical. Also point out examples of other cool helmet wearers – football players, firemen, baseball batters, construction workers, astronauts, etc. Talk about how cool the helmets are and speculate about why they wear them.

For kids on rollerblades or skateboards, wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads and helmets have all been proven to reduce injury. Wrist injuries are the most common rollerblading, skateboarding, and snowboarding injuries, and those wearing wrist guards are more than 10 times as likely to avoid injury.

Published on: April 06, 2009
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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