Are Used Bike Helmets Safe to Buy for Kids?

It’s important to insist that your kids wear bike helmets. Research shows that wearing one while riding reduces a child’s risk of brain injury by 88 percent. But, the truth is, it’s best to buy a bike helmet new. It could have been damaged in a crash — even if you don’t see cracks — and might not be able to withstand another one. When purchasing a helmet, look for the CPSC seal, which means it meets the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The helmet should sit flat on top of your child’s head and be snug enough so that it doesn’t slide down over the eyes when pushed or pulled. The chin strap should be snug. Many kids wear their helmets loose and tipped back, exposing their foreheads. But this doubles their chances of suffering a serious head injury.

Never buy a helmet that’s too big so that your child can “grow into it.” It might not protect him in an accident.

For a guide to exactly how a bike helmet should fit your child, download these instructions on fitting your bike helmet from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

About the Author

Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH, is the holder of the Seattle Children's Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics and adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington. He is chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine. He is editor-in-chief of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. His research interests include the efficacy and promotion of bicycle helmets and prevention of pedestrian injuries. Dr. Rivara served as founding director of the Harborview Injury and Research Center in Seattle for 13 years, founding president of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention, and his contributions to the field of injury control have spanned 30 years. He was one of the editors of WHO's report, World Report on Child Injury.


7 Responses to “Are Used Bike Helmets Safe to Buy for Kids?”

  1. Shaun Best says:

    As the survivor of a three-month coma at age 12 in 1977, I know all to real the challenges one faces with brain injuries/cognitive challenges. My mother failed to see the importance of a helmet for my head/brain. I use positively defined terms to describe myself, because negative terms only promote neglect of my relearnedable skills. Challenge means “to demand as due or deserved”. We all deserve respect. I do presentations on the importance of wearing a helmet, because had I had one on, I may have gotten to go to the Olympics & Air Force. Call Dr. Poussaint, MD, PhD, (617)432-2159, Mr. Watson, El Dorado Schools (870)864-5006, Dr. Logan, Ph.D., (501)450-5487, Mrs. Smith (870)862-4545, Wal Mart Tina (870)836-8000, Boys & Girls Club Mrs. Jamison (870)863-8753, etc. I serve my country today, by activating, demonstrating, educating, initiating, motivating, & stimulating other (children & adults) to wear helmets. If they do have such a challenge, I offer hope & encouragement especially since I’ve survived another forty cognitive challenges. If we can work together to prevent others from the challenges associated when not wearing a helmet, I stand ready to serve our nation? These are a few websites, that may be of interest:

    I hope we can work together to save children, both their future dreams & quality of life. You already know the financial challenges facing us with healthcare expense. I’ve cost over the last 35 years in excess of $3 million. Lets be proactive & stop the challenges before they destroy our future adults & our nation with medical expenses? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Lets start soon because cognitive challenges happen every 18.5 seconds, Brain Injury Association. Also, according to Snell Education Center it cost the USA due to children/adults not wearing helmets, $2.3 billion yearly,, (916)331-5073. Both Ed & Hong know me well. I’m working to reduce this by half in 5 years, could we work together? I’m unable to do this by myself. I need all that desire to keep our nations minds without cognitive challenges/traumatic brain injuries.

  2. Frank Taylor says:

    Great informative article. Thanks

  3. ahmad says:

    Really good article..If it has been in a fall or a collision, then the internal foam may be impacted, and it will no longer safely protect your or your child’s head from brain injury. Also, if you buy a used helmet in a retail store, it should have an ASTM, Snell, or ANSI certification.

  4. Dean James says:

    Frederick Rivara, thank you for sharing this valuable content with us. Let me add that a used or handed down helmet should never have cracks or be damaged. Additionally, you should avoid helmets that have been in a crash. If the helmet was manufactured before 1999, it might have cracks that aren’t visible, or it may not meet current safety standards.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] also present safety issues if they are used. They may have undetectable damage from a previous crash. When buying a helmet, you should look for a Department of Transportation sticker, or one from the […]

  2. […] also present safety issues if they are used. They may have undetectable damage from a previous crash. When buying a helmet, you should look for a Department of Transportation sticker, or one from the […]

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