first hand experience in the importance of replacing helmets! by Jael Edgerton
I rode in the same helmet for several years. The helmet was ASTM/SEI approved, fit perfectly, and always felt secure. I did have several accidents while wearing this helmet, although none of them involved a direct landing on my head, or a severe blow to the head, the helmet did contact the ground during at least two falls. However, there was no visible damage so I assumed it was still wearable.
About a month ago, I was riding a makeshift jumping course in an open grassy area. It had recently rained, so the ground was soft, although not noticeably muddy. My 8 year old haflinger gelding is very solid, sure footed and dependable, and I did not expect to have any problems with this footing. We were cantering a wide, gentle curve on a left-lead approach to a low oxer. As we passed through an area of longer grass, his legs slipped to the right and he fell over on his left side. I did not come out of the saddle, nor did I have time to jump off or roll away. So as my horse landed, the whole left side of my body hit the ground hard, including my left temple. Although I was wearing my helmet, I remember an intense, shooting pain in my head, seeing stars, and then I blacked out. I was unconscious for several seconds but less than a minute. Luckily my mom was near by to catch my horse and put him away. He was, thankfully, unharmed.
I had an extremely severe concussion, with lethargy, dizziness, and headaches for days. My helmet was cracked. I think the helmet must have been weakened by the previous falls just enough that it was no longer able to absorb impact to protect my head. Even so, I think that if I had been without headgear I would have split my skull. The point I'd like to make is that any helmet is better than none, but riders have to be more vigilant about replacement. I think that anytime a head contacts another object during a fall, that helmet has to be considered unwearable. This may be a big expense for some, but head injuries are a worse expense. Even though I am now fully recovered, a severe concussion can lead to unexpected neurologic problems in later life. If I had been wearing a new helmet, I most likely would not have been injured.
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