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Helmets couldn't be more important (Snowboard Skateboard Skate Bike)

MikeB's picture

This week I've had the pleasure of meeting a distant in-law family from Italy. They are here to see how Duke Med. Ctr. can help their son Evan. Evan is now 24. When he was 21 he took a nasty snowboard spill, struck his head, had a headache but finished the day on the slopes. Days later the headache persisted but was starting to subside so his father Salvatore took him to the local hospital. After some brief testing he was advised to take it easy, take some pain meds, and come back if it didn't fully subside. A few days afterward he completely lost motor skills due to large blood accumulation in his brain. Over the past 3 years and intensive therapy/procedures, he's been able to re-learn how to speak, and get most motor skills back, but there are still serious issues: his left arm is completely immobile, his left leg coordination is minimal at best, plus left side facial muscles are maybe 50%.

He loves American culture, (music, movies, etc), and is a big big fan of professional wrestling. Fortunately I had an old Rick Flair autograph, (one of Evan's favorites), so I framed it and presented it to him as a gift and symbol of our new found friendship. His joy was palpable and such a simple gesture brought him so much joy, and tears to his Salvatore's eyes both. He's one of the bravest young men I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

So now I think back at how often my daughter couldn't find her helmet and I let her ride her bike up the road to her friend's house anyway; thinking "aaaaahhhh it's just a couple blocks - she'll be fine." Those days are over.


Duke University Medical Center
2301 Erwin Road
Durham, North Carolina 27710
United States
36° 0' 27.6552" N, 78° 56' 15.5688" W


roadskater's picture

Thanks for the Personal Story

Thanks for sharing this with us. I know lots of people hate the whole helmet debate, but that's their right to hate it, and ours to share as well. I used to feel less urgent about it. Experience with one friend who lost his speech for some time and slowly recovered much but was forever changed made me take it more seriously. A few of my own falls all while wearing a helmet, and especially falls when I was going at a relatively slow speed, convinced me that had I not been wearing a helmet it would have not been good. I hope we can convince adults to wear their helmets every time for the children, even if not their own children. Sometimes I believe they notice I'm a skater with fancy skates (even though mine are plain compared with most speedskates) and that I'm wearing a helmet. I try to encourage the kids who are wearing helmets, and sometimes when it feels right I will mention that they might want to wear a helmet if they're not. Especially I hope parents will understand that they lead by example, and not only that, in my opinion (no data) most adults, especially but not only those who have not ridden or skated in a while, are more likely to fall and hit their head than the child...and they are usually earning more income than the child, so a brain injury would be all the more financially catastrophic for the family. I hope your visitors from Italy love North Carolina and will visit often, and of course that they will find good circumstances for recovery. Above all I hope that they have peace with whatever circumstances they meet. They are of course welcome here, posting in English or Italian or both, preferably, if they should like, and we'll keep Evan on the road in our minds as we skate. Seriously, if he or Salvatore or anyone in the family would like to post regular updates or just tell us about how great snowboarding is, it is surely welcome here. You can't get off the couch without risking some injury, but if you stay on the couch you can be certain you will be injured in devastating ways. At least when you get off the couch, you can equip yourself to face the necessary risks of and exciting and invigorating form of exercise.
Bryan's picture

I took a pretty hard fall

I took a pretty hard fall last December. I was on a trail I am intimately familiar with, and since it was christmas break on a university campus, I had the area entirely to myself. Between the solitude and the familiarity with every crack in the sidewalk, I felt comfortable to be running flat out working on staying as low as I could. However, I was a bit too comfortable... I was not looking up and checking out my path as often as I should have been, which was why I didn't notice that the campus maintenance crews were taking advantage of the opportunity to replace some of the older sidewalk tiles. I only noticed about fifteen feet ahead of time, which wasn't enough time to even think about braking. All I could do was head for the grass and hope for the best. That didn't work out so well. My skates hit the grass and I simply stopped. Well, at least they did... my upper body continued at approximately 16mph, which with my feet no longer moving meant that my right shoulder hit the ground at around 15mph, and my head followed shortly thereafter at a similar speed. My first thought as I sat up was that I was glad I had hit my head. It meant that all the times I had worn a helmet and not needed it had finally paid off. My second thought was that I hurt. A lot. Fortunately I hit grass and not asphalt or cement, so there was no roadrash. But three months later I'm still having significant problems with my shoulder. It would really suck if I were having comparable problems with my brain.
roadskater's picture

No Way to Stop My Head

Yes I won't recount the whole story but when I fell and hit my chin long ago, it was a real lesson in how little control I had over my head once my body hit the ground. The helmet didn't help my chin (a full face one would have) but I believe it did help otherwise and I was fully convinced from that day on of the benefit of wearing a helmet. I had already been wearing it but sort of wondered if it was a waste. I haven't wondered since then. Things happen so quickly, like a runner on the left listening to headphones with a dog on an extender leash (effectively reducing how much the dog owner notices by feel that the dog has bolted), and another dog in the campsite to the right, with hopes of genetic replication! Anyway, we'll never convince the invincible, but maybe we can tip those close to wearing one over to that side.
timv's picture

Leave your helmet on

Then there was the time when I came home from a bike ride, realized I'd locked myself out of my apartment, decided to climb up to the second-floor balcony, thought to leave my bike helmet on while doing so, tried to pull myself up to the railing using a board that wasn't nailed in quite well enough, and fell ten feet back onto the concrete below, slamming my head pretty hard against the pavement when I hit.

That was a very good test and the helmet (a very early soft-shelled Giro) performed admirably. My ribs and right hand were bruised and sore, but my head was quite uninjured and in fact I was able to think a lot more clearly than when I got the idea to try to climb up to the balcony in the first place.

MikeB's picture

lesson learned - have a spare key hidden

Timv, that must have been a 10 foot fall that seemed to last an eternity.  Deciding to leave your helmet on was one heck of a decision.  Your fall could have been catastrophic.  My neighbor's father just took such a fall.  He was 80, climbed a rickety old ladder to get a branch off his roof that was irritating him - he fell about 12 feet to the deck below, where he laid for possibly as long as 2 hours - unfortunately he did not make it.

MikeB's picture

Bryan's well known path got him underestimate it

Isn' that always the way?  As your comfortability rises, time tested precautions begin to diminish - it's just natural human instinct and same can be said for driving the same route over and over again.  What a lesson to not let your guard down - not for an instant.

eebee's picture

With a little help from your helmet

Glad you left your helmet on for one hair-brained scheme, Timv (I've had many of those myself, albeit sans helmet). Aprr's Clarence has rib-breakage covered - literally - with his padded turtley vest, as a result breaking a few ribs 3 years ago on a downtown night skate where the railroad tracks sneaked up in front of him. Clarence and many experienced roadskaters can handle rr tracks blindfolded most of the time, but I'm sure Andy remembers all too well one incident where I didn't! The helmet and full camelbak bladder saved my back and cranium that day (it was like flinging myself back onto a water bed). Luckily I popped back up feeling alright. Mike - I wish your cousin a full recovery.
MikeB's picture

thanks for the well wishes eebee

I sure hope Duke Med. Ctr. can help. It's an amazing facility to say the least. Regarding your railroad track spill - That must have been terrible. I know I would have laid on the tracks like a tied up damsel in distress, unable to move, and awaiting Dirk Dasterdly to come run me over in his steam locomotive. (that paints a rather unattractive picture - sorry about that). But I'm glad you bounced right back!
roadskater's picture

Seriously Interested

We're seriously interested in Evan's progress, and as much as you and they would like to share about that progress, we welcome it here. So please tell them we hope for the best and that they find the good in the USA that is still here in bright corners.
eebee's picture

Wacky Races!

Well there's a blast from the past, MikeB! Every week I hoped the train would run over Penelope Pitstop :-)

Just as I'm sure Bryan usually knows how to execute a perfect grass-stop, railroad tracks are usually no big deal for me. I run over pretty big rocks and sticks all the time (sand is a bit tricky though). The problem with these particular tracks was that the nice cycling-event organizers thought they'd spare some expensive bike wheels and threw some cushy carpet over the tracks, creating a ramp effect. I can't do ramps (yet!). Honestly, I'd have been much better off with a couple of metal rails poking up two inches through the pavement, to get my weight back and lightly hop over as per usual. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about the Tour de Kale, which you may have seen advertised each year. This is my report from last year. It was well worth the entry fee:


Come to think of it, I need to go skate some hills now!

MikeB's picture

Tour-de-Kale sounds like a GREAT event

Thanks so much for that link. What a tremendous job in describing the event! 38mph and 45mph??!! You can't be serious - that's flying. And you hit me back with the Penelope Pitstop reference......very nice. Thanks eebee. And thanks to Blake on sincerely wishing Evan the best and to keep up with his progress. As news develops, I'll certainly keep you informed.
eebee's picture

Rough gauge/gage

The 38mph is believable and probable, on that particular fast and long downhill, and we were still PASSING him at that point! The 45mph on the other hand came via enthusiastic human interpretation of a motorcycle speedometer, so may be somewhat exaggerated. In a paceline of 3 or more people over 150lbs I would say 45mph is likely on such steep downhills, but at that time it was just me & Blake. However, I am able to hit 30mph alone at my park, if my garmin 305 is close to correct (who knows!). I guess I'm not too hung up on downhill speed - it's just optimal to get more momentum for the following uphill.
roadskater's picture

MPH Speed on the Road with Inline Skates

I think we have verifiable data of 42mph from a few years ago. I don't really want to go any faster than that. Perhaps on Silver Hill we've gone faster, but when you get up to that speed, it takes a lot more (or less) to go faster...more hill, more people, less clothing flapping, lower tuck. For those wondering about sanity, we usually feel well in control. There've been some times where we were a bit on the edge of that, but we're pretty careful when we can't see what's coming around the bend. The biggest safety factor is to be in a group you know and trust. If you don't know what to expect from the rest of the pack, it can shotgun apart in a hurry if anything unexpected happens. It's pretty important to be careful at those speeds, of course, and keep as calm as possible and not try anything drastic but deal with it with as much slow motion zen as possible. I'm not sure what that all means, but I know how it feels to me. Nothing beats experience I think...and it helps to forget those halfpipe skaters...I know the first time I came to a curb at slow speed I thought I had to jump and it didn't work to well. Soon after I realized (probably by copying fellow skatemonkeys) that you can just step up very calmly and transfer the weight from the lower foot and surface (road) to the higher foot and surface (sidewalk), assuming the surfaces are good. And brick pavers and train tracks work so much better by thinking about rolling rather than dramatic jumping, for me at least. Rolling works better at higher speeds, so these things go better when carrying on with some speed (usually) instead of stopping to face them. (All of this writ for newer skaters wondering about all of this, and not for those who already have their ways to deal with obstacles...about which please share.)
MikeB's picture

high MPHs will make the heart race

Experience has got to be #1, and slowly pushing your own personal envelope over time.  Slow and steady.  High speeds are quite the rush but can't imagine 42mph in a pack - that's a lot of trust for sure. 

I imagine the Eddy Matzger Workshop will be instrumental for skaters to take their own personal knowledge and technique to the next level, thereby boosting confidence.

roadskater's picture

Skater on Stairs Without Helmet Doesn't Live to Skate Forever

I'm so sad to hear that near where eebee and I have often been on our way to and fro, a young fellow died unnecessarily for his sport. The article mentions the lack of a helmet, but not that prominently, in my opinion. It's a fine line when writing headlines, but the lack of a helmet is worth a mention in the headline or lead, I think. It's not about blame. It's about kids seeing what can really happen, and adults too. Information.
(If you want to see the tribute part of the video, just watch the last five seconds. The rest is skate tricks.)

Out of respect for my elders, I might not mention wearing a helmet to this guy...
...but I was already planning to write about him before I read about this accident in the AJC.

We can't go back to before this happened, but please, kids, adults, skaters, cyclists, scooterists, please protect your head every time. Timv and I saw several kids out with their scooters and parents at the park...without helmets. Especially at Country Park, that's a big deal. Parents set the example. We also saw a Dad and his two boys on their bikes, all with helmets. I think half of the kids at that park have helmets. I think we can make that percentage increase. I hope so.

I've been talking lately about the story I read where the police were giving "tickets" to kids wearing helmets, good for a free ice cream. More on this later. I want to do that and add a bit to the idea.

If you don't have your strap clicked in and tight enough to keep your helmet secure, you're not wearing a helmet. That's cool. But you or a friend might die or lose their ability to speak. Or they might not. The helmet is far more likely to help than hurt. The helmet is likely to reduce the damage, if any, and there's only a small chance it might actually cause harm.

You'll look more like a pro skater, and keep your brain to skate forever! Forever in this world.

To friends and family of anyone suffering from this (or anything) I wish you peace within and love around you. I'm sure you wanted him to wear a helmet all the time. So let's try to get some other folks wearing helmets voluntarily because they get it.
roadskater's picture

And the Helmet Won't Always Save You

Here are a few other thoughts as I've considered what I wrote about the skater who died not wearing a helmet. It's fair to say that I don't know what happened with the stair skater who died or where his injuries were. I took from the story that some thought wearing a helmet would have made a difference, and in general, would not hurt (though timv pointed out some evidence that aerodynamic bike helmets might contribute to some other injuries, I think it was neck strain, with their fins and protrusions in the rear). This story of a cyclist who was wearing a helmet showed up the sidebar of roadskater.net in conjunction with a collision with a "rollerblader." The 82-year-old cyclist died over a week later... http://www.dailypilot.com/articles/2008/04/04/publicsafety/dpt-rollerbla... So yes you can still die from an accident on skates or bikes, helmet or not, and being careful is pretty important, but rarely, maybe not enough. It happens so fast I don't think there's any way to react usually, in terms of positioning oneself, unless you could "see it coming." My condolences to those who loved these folk. In the case of the cyclist/skater collision, it sounds like the skater tried to help and believed all was well when he left the cyclist. As ever, hoping for peace for all involved. And last but not least, let's go skate, because staying on the couch is at least as dangerous in the long run (it seems to me).
MikeB's picture

Think! Helmet & gear up - THEN go for it.

That's terrible that an outdoor enthusiast should lose their life over not having the proper gear, no matter what the sport. And it's so common too for kids to go without any safety gear at all. In my opinion, a part of the blame falls on TV & the internet. Blooper shows continually show people taking nasty spills - all in the name of a laugh. And You Tube is filled with kids video taping themselves and friends doing the craziest of stunts. The clips with the most hits are always the terrible wipe outs where some poor soul ends the stunt in terrible screaming pain, his knee or elbow bending in the complete wrong direction - and his buddies standing over him, still filming, saying "oooohhhh dude, that was awesome!" I don't get the humor or momentary claim to fame. Just don't get it.

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