Contrary to a belief specific to 16-18 year old boys that we are invincible, I have found through both personal experience and the obseervation of others that this is not true. Take the helmet equation. The equation states: take a teenage boy, add overconfidence, throw in the importance of image over safety, and you end up with a disaster waiting to happen. Wearing a helmet is both simple way to stay safe and, in the minds of teenage boys, the slowest route to warranting attention from anyone of the opposite sex.
Friday, May 4 was just another day. It was the type of day that when asked by a parent, “How was school?” one would reply, “It was good.” After scrambling to turn in the last assignment of the day, I began to walk to the field-house. While walking through the back parking lot, two kids approached me. Noticing my skateboard, they asked me if I’d join them in skating down Homestead Avenue. A third kid decided to tag along. Helmetless, we began hiking up the hill.
At the top, we debated the order in which we would glide down the hill. I volunteered to go first. The sound of boards rolling on the pavement in unison is unlike any other. It gets to be more of a roar than anything else. The first two of us rounded the first right-hand corner, deafened by the sound of burning urethane, into the steeper section of the hill. I rounded the corner first and was greeted by a light honk from a Toyota Sequoia in the other lane. Thinking nothing of it, I turned my head back down the hill.
Just as I turned away, I heard the sound that confirms that someone is going to hit the ground, “Oh [expletive]!” The sound of a body hitting the pavement is similar to when one large, flat piece of plywood is dropped directly on top of another.
Such a sound warrants the fastest possible foot-brake. When I stopped ran up to find one lone skater convulsing on the ground. His eyes were white, his pupils rolled back in his head, and his face was the color of a lime. He was shaking uncontrollably, gasping for air, and was unable to respond to our desperate pleas for acknowledgement of consciousness. The idea of wearing a helmet was becoming more and more of a necessity rather than an option.
After regaining consciousness, he was unable to tell us what had happened. When the ambulance picked him up, the image of neck immobilizing foam, and a plastic stretcher were enough to imprint the event permanently into our brains.
It turns out that when he rounded the corner he got spooked by the oncoming car in the other lane. He was nowhere close to hitting it, it just scared him. As he swerved to avoid it, his wheels slid out, and his head hit the pavement.
Dr. Pietro Tonino of Loyola University School of Medicine compiled statistics stating that in 2005, skateboarding alone sent 112,000 skaters to the ER. Fortunately, I am not a part of that statistic. That being said, I have met the front bumper, and side-view mirror of many cars. There is no feeling as intense as the moment before a definite impact. Fortunately, wearing a full-face helmet has protected me from any truly serious injury in these instances.
After witnessing the crash, on what seemed to be like nothing more than a lazy Friday afternoon, my personal outlook on helmets is taking a much needed turn for the better. I now see that a plastic shell has the capability to save and protect all that I am. My thoughts, my personality, who I am resides on top of my shoulders, in between the eyes. To not protect it with a $35 “brain bucket” is a bad decision. Helmets save lives.
Before this event, I rarely wore a helmet on anything other than a serious hill. Can I explain my teenage mentality of image over safety? No. I can also honestly say that even after witnessing a kid come close to becoming a vegetable, I most likely will continue my past behavior.