As CTE hits the headlines again, this time in the sphere of football, it is apparent that the sporting world is waking up to the risks of repeated head injuries – even where they may not seem at the time to be a cause for concern.
We’ve previously reported on the case of Lorraine Truong, whose friends, including Tracy Moseley, ran a successful funding campaign to allow her to access specialist treatment in America. Lorraine has recently published a blog post which describes what happens to your brain when you land on your head (even when wearing a helmet). In it she also suggests that wearing a full face helmet gave her a false sense of security, or helped her feel that she could take more risks:
“…looking at my history of crashes, I’ve noticed that I hit my head much more often with a full face on. Of course it could be because I wear a full face when it’s riskier. But I didn’t crash less in open-face (oh no!). I crashed differently.”
Lorraine suggests that this could be partly down to the additional weight of a full face helmet compared to an open face one, but she says also thinks, “it was because with the little helmet, my reflexes were to protect my face. But while when more protected, my subconscious thought it was ok to crash head first (my subconscious can be very stupid).”
Lorraine is not the first person to suggest that a helmet might at least influence the type of accident that a rider may have. As Lorraine herself notes, amateur boxers wearing helmets tend to take more hits to the head than professionals without helmets, as they focus less on protecting their faces. But we do have to be careful here – a single blow to an unprotected head may not be comparable to multiple blows to a protected one. The point is that there are studies that have shown that people adapt their behaviours according to perceptions of risk in relation to the safety equipment they use. For example researchers at Bath University found that just wearing a helmet could make people more likely to engage in risky behaviours – even where the helmet had no bearing on their actual safety.
Of course, neither Lorraine nor us here at Singletrack are suggesting that you should throw away your helmets. Yes there are those out there who don’t wear a helmet, but if you’ve ever crashed and landed on your helmet, or had your bike whack you on the head while wearing a helmet, you’re probably already appreciative of the protection that a well fitted helmet can give you. We know from experience that they can take quite a lot of effort to truly destroy. But the idea that we might push ourselves that bit too hard because we feel nicely wrapped up in D3O, MIPS, ArmorGel, kneepads, elbowpads, chin guards and so on is an interesting one.
What do you think? Do you get all that kit on knowing you’re going to push your limits, or are you able to push your limits because with all of that protection you think you’ll be alright if you get it wrong?