To Wear or Not to Wear, that’s the Helmet Question

Culture and vanity vie against common sense and science in plenty of our personal decisions. Take tanning:

This year, the World Health Organization added tanning booths to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. People get skin cancer and die from frequenting tanning booths and eschewing sunscreen. But there are lots of tans folks out there. Society chooses tan over pale nearly every time.

Likewise, evidence overwhelmingly supports wearing a helmet to protect oneself from head injury while horse riding.

emergencyHere are nuggets from several research projects aimed at riding and hurting your head:

  • Head injuries make up 23 percent of riding injuries resulting in Emergency Room visits. Read more.
  • You’re four times more likely to die while riding if you don’t have a helmet. Read more.
  • Most injuries happen in younger and less experienced riders; many occur when working with a young horse. Read more.
  • Most traumatic brain injuries result from falling or being tossed off a horse, but some happen while on the ground (like being kicked in the head).

Helmet wearing seems to be a no brainer.

Yet millions choose not to wear one and suffer no ill consequence during a lifetime of riding. Insurers increasingly mandate helmets at events and facilities. For the rest of us, the freedom, risk, and choice is personal.

And like many personal choices, folks can get downright emotional about it.

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Emily Thomas Luciano with helmet

The usually sensible Rick Gore has a long YouTube tirade against wearing helmets: he says they give riders a false sense of security, empower riders to take greater, ill-advised risks and that only helmet companies are advocating for helmet use. It’s silly stuff, but serves to illustrate how polarized the argument for and against helmets has become.

NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are more concerned with providing perspective and less concerned with taking a position. But here’s a middle of the road stance from our Marketing Director, Emily Thomas Luciano. She writes from her home in Florida:

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably should wear a helmet every time I saddle up, but frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to. Maybe I’m having a good hair day or maybe it’s hot. Whatever the reason, I’m not always the poster child for safety.

I do, however, have a few hard-and-fast times when I’m a stickler for wearing one:

  • If I’m putting the first handful of rides on a horse.
  • If I’m hitting the trail alone.
  • Emily Thomas Luciano without helmet

    Emily Thomas Luciano without helmet

    I take the horse into consideration as well: my mustang gelding who can be a bit unpredictable, so I always wear a helmet when riding him. On the other hand, I leave it off when riding my quarter horse mare that I’ve owned for all of her 15 years.

  • Lastly, I try to be a little smarter about helmet usage when my husband is deployed. With family 12 hours away by car, I couldn’t manage a head injury with him gone.

But really, is a head injury something that any of us can afford to manage?

The risk and choice is yours.

Read Anatomy of a Wreck.

Posted in BestHorsePractices, Equine Safety, Health, On the Trail and tagged , .

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