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Helmets and sports – Summer Safety Week in New Jersey

State consumer protection organizations, county and municipal offices and other governmental agencies are commemorating the state's safety week with tips and suggestions designed to assist residents in recognizing ways to prevent injuries. Because brain injuries are some of the most difficult to treat, and recovery isn't quick, their focus on helmet use is particularly useful.

Anyone under 17 years of age is required to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, skateboard and inline or roller skates under New Jersey law. The goal of the law is to lessen the risk of serious brain injury or death, consequences of an accident that can sometimes be prevented by properly fitted helmets.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been about 556,660 bicycle and bike accessory-related injuries, 466,492 football-related injuries, 265,471 injuries from baseball and softball accidents, and 92,781 other ballgame-related injuries. Skateboarding involved 114,120 accidents, 64,733 hockey players have been hurt and 90,434 injuries relating to roller and inline skating have occurred. Estimates are that every $12 spent on a child's helmet generates $580 in savings to society, and for every dollar spent on a bicycle helmet, about $30 in indirect medical and other costs is saved.

The appropriate helmet must be worn for each sporting activity. A bicycle helmet won't protect someone playing football, for example. Different safety standards apply to different headgear, and there are mandatory federal standards for bicycle and motorcycle helmets. Other recreational protective accessories are subject to voluntary safety standards. Labels included with the gear will specify its compliance with the appropriate rating. Proper fit is critical, and they must be replaced after impacts, or should be within five to 10 years after purchase.

Helmets can reduce the risk of severe head injuries and save lives. They haven't been proven to prevent concussions, however. Consumers may need legal recourse to recover from injuries resulting when a manufacturer makes safety claims that are questionable or sports organizational supervision is lacking and injury results.

Source: The State of New Jersey, Office of the Attorney General, "Summer Safety Week," accessed May. 28, 2015

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Gary D. Ginsberg is a Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who has been recognized as an expert in litigating cases in the courts of New Jersey.

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