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Head protection vital, regardless of helmet laws
Helmets are in the news again, along with important questions of personal safety and responsibility going up against issues of personal freedom.
All sides seem to agree, however, that special care needs to be taken when it comes to the safety of young people.
The first case is a new proposal to eliminate Nebraska's motorcycle helmet law, which failed to advance Wednesday but which may come up again before legislators adjourn. The idea of requiring motorcyclists to carry long-term care and extra medical insurance in exchange for removing the helmet requirement was nixed after it was found that such specialized insurance may not be available.
Both sides of the issue seem to agree, however, that riders under 21 be required to wear helmets, as well as requiring all riders to wear eye protection and to revisit the decision to repeal the helmet law in five years.
While most motorcyclists rarely have the chance to find out how well their helmets work, other, younger people -- football players -- put their headgear to the test every time they put it on.
A congressional committee is conducting hearings on sports- and recreation-related concussions, which amount to as many as 3.8 million injuries in the United States each year.
According to an Associated Press story, at least a half-dozen states are considering measures to toughen restrictions on young athletes returning to play after head injuries.
In Washington, for example, athletes under 18 who show concussion symptoms can't take the field again without a licensed health care provider's written approval. California and Pennsylvania have similar bills pending.
The Brain Injury Association of America has some surprising points to make about concussions.
* Most concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness.
* You can sustain a concussion by an indirect blow elsewhere in the body that transmits an "impulsive" force to the head.
* Multiple concussions can have cumulative and long-lasting life changes.
* Concussions typically do not appear in neuroimaging studies such as MRI or CT scans.
* During 2001-05, children and youth ages 5-18 years accounted for 2.4 million sports-related emergency department visits annually, of which 6 percent involved a concussion.
* Among children and youth ages 5-18 years, the five leading sports or recreational activities which account for concussions include bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities and soccer.
No one is suggesting we give up athletic events or riding motorcycles, but regardless of the law, taking good care of your head -- and that includes wearing a helmet when it's appropriate -- is the smart thing to do.