I have always been a proponent of helmets. Being an emergency physician gives me a front seat to the tragedies of severe head injuries. As a result, I’ve developed a reputation among family and friends for having an unhealthy advocacy to “always wear a helmet”. In addition to a repulsion for all manner of powered “all-terrain-vehicles”, motorcycles, and scooters, I have unfortunately also seen significant head injuries as a result of unhelemted skateboarding and cycling. All preventable. 

Some years ago a group of friends and I decided to spend a day on a leisurely trail ride on horseback. Being inexperienced equestrians, we chose a benign trail, a guided ride, and old horses. When we arrived at the ranch, we completed the requisite consent forms and were offered helmets. Everyone immediately turned to me and in a moment of inexplicable poor judgement, I shrugged my shoulders and said “whatever you guys want to do” and we all rode off, unhelmeted. 

The trail was flat, wooded and completely unsurprising. As we neared the end and were lining up to ride through a gate, the guide’s grandson came galloping up behind the group, startling the horse in the back; my horse.  

The horse bucked and threw me off in a blink of an eye. I landed in the dirt, next to a kicking horse, head 6 inches from the fence post, completely unharmed. As I got up, all I could think of was the irony of my fall, unhelmeted. Luckily I was not injured. But the event reinforced my vigor for the use of helmets. 

Protect yourself and your family. The argument against helmets centers around convenience, comfort and fashion, none of which hold a candle to the lifelong injury, disability or death that comes from severe brain injury. Be safe.

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