Sports-Related Head Protection, Children Ages Six to 19 Years

In New York State (NYS), over 20 percent of children who are hospitalized for sports-related injuries sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI), often the most severe type of head injury.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing sports-related head injuries.

Are there any NYS laws related to helmet use I should be aware of?

To prevent children from sustaining head injuries, NYS law requires that children under the age of 14 years wear a helmet while using bicycles, inline skates, skateboards, and nonmotorized scooters.

During what sports should my child wear a helmet?

  • The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that children under 12 years of age wear a helmet when sledding and that all athletes wear helmets while skiing and snowboarding to reduce the risk of sustaining a TBI.
  • Ensure that your child wears a helmet no matter how long or where they are playing. Even if he or she is at practice or playing in your driveway, he or she can still get hurt.

What kind of helmet should I buy for my child?

  • Select a helmet that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) helmet standard. Each helmet meeting this standard will display a CPSC sticker.
  • Make sure your child wears a helmet appropriate for his or her sport. Using the wrong helmet may interfere with balance and vision, causing a fall. A bicycle helmet can be worn while bicycling, roller and in-line skating, and scooter riding.
  • Multi-sport helmets, which offer more protection to the back of the head, can be used for a variety of sports.
  • Buy a helmet than fits your child, not one that your child will "grow into."

How do I know if the helmet fits my child properly?

  • Helmets are often labeled by age or head measurement, but use these only as a guideline. Children's heads are many different sizes and shapes, so they must try it on and sometimes make adjustments to ensure it fits properly.
  • The helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and not be tilted back on the head. The helmet front rim should rest approximately two fingers width above the eyebrow and should be barely visible to the rider's eye.
  • Straps should be adjusted for a snug, comfortable fit. No more than two fingers should fit between the helmet strap and the chin. Teach your child to always keep the straps buckled when riding.

What are some other helmet safety tips?

  • Remember that you are your child's best role model. Children whose parents wear their helmets are more likely to wear their helmets.
  • Never let your child wear a helmet while playing on a playground. There is a risk of strangulation from the chinstrap if the helmet gets caught on playground equipment.
  • Replace a helmet that has been involved in a crash. The shock-absorbing materials on the inside of the helmet could be damaged.

Where can I find more information about helmets?