The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Putting on a bicycle helmet is ‘no-brainer’
By PAMELA GOULDHanding over a healthy human brain to a group of fifth-graders tends to get their attention even if it’s three days before summer break.
Displaying a second brain blackened from a deadly fall drives home a point.
Paul Aravich, a neuroscientist from Eastern Virginia Medical School, visited Livingston Elementary on Wednesday to talk about the importance of bike helmets in preventing head trauma.
Aravich has made a career out of teaching medical students about the marvel that is the human brain, and he didn’t hesitate to press Livingston students to use theirs throughout his fast-paced presentation.
“Which is cooler—having a helmet on your head or your brains on the street?” he asked.
“A helmet on your head,” he said after a short pause. “That’s a no-brainer.”
Aravich visited the Spotsylvania County school as part of a program sponsored by the Young Lawyers Section of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.
Students were shown how to properly wear helmets, and each is to be given one today by the lawyers group.
Fairfax attorney Zack Desmond, an avid bicyclist and triathlete, said he never rides without a helmet.
He also pointed out that Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, always wears his as do all of the competitors.
“There is nothing not cool about doing it,” Desmond said.
Attorney Melissa Ray of Woodbridge shared the story of a 19-year-old whose life was forever altered two years ago when he suffered head trauma while skateboarding without a helmet.
His plans for college evaporated and he’s now living at home, dependent on his parents, she said.
The speakers urged students to wear helmets for biking, skateboarding, four-wheeling or any other activity that could lead to a traumatic head injury.
“What is the best treatment for a brain injury?” Aravich asked.
“Prevention,” he said after stumping the students.
Aravich cited a federal Centers for Disease Control study that said almost all brain injuries from bike accidents can be prevented by helmets.
In between passing around a healthy brain, a human heart, a lung, a spinal cord and a portion of a skull, Aravich spoke to the rising sixth-graders about temptations to come.
Alcohol, he said, is the most costly and most dangerous drug in America, with tobacco coming in a close second.
And he noted that middle school is the most common time for people to start experimenting with both.
“Smart people make good decisions,” Aravich told them.
Students posed some questions to Aravich, including why football players get concussions if they have on helmets.
He said those are closed-head injuries and compared them to shaking a raw egg without breaking the shell.
He also was quick to answer a question that elicited chuckles from the Livingston staff.
“Is it true that a male only uses part of his brain?” Harley Beddard asked, revealing a statement she’d heard from her mother.
“No,” Aravich said, taking no offense. “It turns out we use 100 percent of our brain whether we’re male or female.”
Student Majestic Stewart doesn’t see brain surgery in his career plans after reeling at the experience of handling the soft tissue.
“It was nasty,” he said.
But he, like Kamber Jackson, got the point.
Kamber said she isn’t a bike rider yet but will carry the message home after seeing the damage that can be caused by a fall.
“I think I’m going to get my daddy to get a bike helmet now so he can be safe because I don’t want his brain to look like that,” she said.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
BIKE SAFETY TIPS
With summer break at hand, bicyclists are encouraged to take simple yet important steps to stay safe while cycling.
Always wear a helmet.
Wear shoes, not sandals or flip-flops.
Ride in the same direction as traffic.
Make eye contact with a driver to be sure you are seen if you plan to go ahead of a car.