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Damn it

March 16, 2005

I’ve been a pretty fanatical biker since, oh, 1971 when I got my first 3-speed Schwinn.  Gears changed everything.  Sure, I like to drive cars (especially old VW’s) but a bicycle seemed like my ultimate urban assault vehicle.

That changed last August when I had an accident.  I remember toolin’ along on a sunny day, feelin’ fine, and then waking up in an emergency room, annoyed because it was going to ruin my whole afternoon.

Then I moved, maybe a centimeter, and realized it was going to ruin a whole lot of afternoons.  But hey, my head would stop bleeding, my shoulder would heal, and I’d be back on wheels in no time, right?

Not so fast.  With help from a physical therapist at Carle, I’m trying to retrain my balance (which was simply excellent before the accident.)  Today, I went into Tom’s Sporting Goods to look at helmets.

Now the fact is, helmets are not as clearly a Good Thing as people think they are.  Sure, it seems simple, but if you look at data from Australia and England (where bike helmets are mandatory) there are some puzzles.  Briefly, I am concerned that a helmet might mean trading a head injury for a neck injury.

My doctor (and nearly everyone else) just brushes off that concern: “Not true.”  But he’s the same guy who prescribed Phen-Phen for me a few years ago and whose medical judgement has been pretty flaky in a couple other cases as well.  He goes for the official, pamphlet-approved answer.  Sometimes I feel like I could just skip visiting him and take pamphlets off spinning racks in the lobby.

But OK – FINE – after multiple concussions in life, I guess I have to play the odds differently now.  Too much scar tissue in that grey blob already.  My short-term memory is a stack of index cards in my shirt pocket as it is.  And I really, REALLY want to get back on my bike.

But my balance isn’t good enough to stand there looking at a display of helmets.  I realize I’m swaying significantly.


I walk out of the store.

“Did you find what your were looking for, sir?”

I’m not planning on giving up or anything, but it’s very, very, very annoying.  That’s three “very”s.

Categories: Personal
  1. March 16, 2005 at 17:36 | #1

    Ouch.  Feelin’ there for you, guy.

  2. March 16, 2005 at 19:56 | #2


    As a man who’s had his fair share of head injuries.  I know how much they suck to recover from.  I really feel for you.  However, over time things do start getting better, the brain is surprising plastic and can heal from all sorts of insults.  Moreover, if it makes you feel any better a colleague of mine had an accident playing basketball and had to get holes drilled into his head.  At least you didn’t have to go through that.  You didn’t have to go through that right?

  3. March 17, 2005 at 08:56 | #3

    For years I rode without a helmet, then a few years ago I broke down and got one. A few weeks later, I went head first off the bike. The helmet saved me from a serious head injury.

    But why did I go head first off the bike? Because I was screwing around; doing something I’d never have done without a helmet. I figured that since I had better protection, I could try more challenging terrain.

    So, I wear my helmet when I ride, but I try not to let it, um, go to my head.

  4. March 17, 2005 at 14:37 | #4

    But why did I go head first off the bike? Because I was screwing around; doing something I’d never have done without a helmet. I figured that since I had better protection, I could try more challenging terrain.

    I wonder if that explains the Aussie and Brit data?  That maybe people ride differently when they have protective gear.  Hmmm…

    I hope to have a chance to take your advice (about not letting it go to my head – LOL!) by getting back on a bike again. 

    One piece of protective gear I’ll certainly invest in is a rearview mirror, since we think a car was involved.

  5. Lucas
    March 18, 2005 at 19:05 | #5

    I’m very infrequently injured on my bicycle because me reaction times, planning, and balance are all very good.  The only times I’ve been in accidents in the past 5 years were the result of mechanical failures of the petals (I ride my bike so hard that metal strain on the petals seems to be a constant problem).  However, I used to wear a helmet some time ago, and it was during this time that I had one of my most serious accidents.  I was riding on a sidewalk—one I had ridden down literally hundreds of times before, and I ducked so as not to hit a low-hanging tree branch.  But I did.  You see, my head was two inches higher than usual.  I was knocked off the bike, and my neck really, really hurt the next day.

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