Motorcycle helmets can help prevent serious head injury and death in a motorcycle accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advocates the use of helmets and supports safety programs that encourage helmet use. But improper removal of a motorcycle helmet after an accident can cause serious head injuries or paralysis, while leaving the helmet on can restrict airway access, cause unnecessary flexion of the cervical spine and making it difficult to apply cervical collars. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are specially trained in how to safely remove motorcycle helmets after an accident.
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Examine the helmet to determine the type of helmet you are trying to remove; it may have full, partial or open face coverage, or it may have an opening full face shield. The chin bar of opening full face helmets cannot clear the victim's chin and must be opened before helmet removal procedures begin.
Hold the victim's head still by holding each side of the bottom of the helmet and placing your fingers on the mandible or lower jaw.
Loosen the helmet strap at the D-rings, using scissors to cut the strap if the D-rings prove difficult to loosen. This task should be performed by a second person while the first person holds the head still.
Place one hand on the mandible, with fingers and thumbs on either side for support, then use the other hand to support the occipital region (the back of the head). This task should be performed by the second rescuer, who relieves the first rescuer from stabilising the head.
Instruct the first rescuer to begin sliding the helmet straight back off the head while pulling at the bottom of the helmet so it spreads wide enough to clear the ears. Glasses should be removed from the victim before removal begins, and helmets with full facial coverage will need to be tilted back to clear the wearer's nose.
Provide head support by placing hands on either side of the head so that palms cover the ears and fingers support the back of the neck. This action should be performed by the first rescuer after the helmet has been successfully removed; the second rescuer should continue to provide mandible and occipital support.
Continue to maintain inline immobilisation until other rescue workers can apply a cervical collar and immobilising backboard.
Tips and warnings
- Feel free to remove the visor from the helmet if you can do so while maintaining inline immobilisation.
- Never attempt to remove a helmet by yourself, because one person cannot provide the necessary support to immobilise the accident victim's head and neck.
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