It’s not known if it was black, but German pro cyclist Matthias Kessler definitely had bad luck when a cat crossed his path last week while training in Majorca. Add Kessler’s decision not to wear a helmet and the result was tragic and could have been fatal.
Kessler, 30, a former rider for the Kazakhstan-based team Astana, served to miss a cat and crashed head-first in a wall and suffered a fractured skull.
Physicians induced a coma to facilitate Kessler’s recovery, and the cyclist also had surgery to have blood clots removed. Kessler was initially listed in critical condition, but is now recovering and his status has been upgraded to serious.
“The doctors are confident that he will recover,” Karheinz Kessler, the rider’s father told the Nürnrberger Nachrichten newspaper.
Kessler’s example is one of many in recent years in the ongoing controversy of pro cyclists’ decision to wear or not wear helmets.
The International Cycling Union, the sport’s international governing body, now requires riders to wear helmets in races, with the exception of the last few miles of mountain finishes. But the same practice is not always followed in training.
But rule came as an aftermath of the death of Andrei Kivilev of Kazakhstan. Kivilev wasn’t wearing a helmet when he died following head injuries suffered in second stage of Paris-Nice in 2003. Fabio Casartelli of Italy, who was also not wearing a helmet, died following a crash during the 1995 Tour de France
In some European countries, pros and recreational riders often opt not to wear helmets.
Many states require children under age 18 to wear helmets. But there’s no federal law requiring the use of helmet for cyclists. Many cyclists think helmet are restrictive and too hot during summer training. Another belief is that fewer people would ride their bikes if helmets were mandatory.
Physician Rebecca Jackson, a staff writer for the fan site of Team RadioShack, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s new team, stresses the importance of cyclists to wear helmets. But she also believes the need for “public enforcement.”
“Many states require the use of bike helmets for children younger than 18 years old. Regrettably, this is rarely enforced,” wrote Jackson. “Although I make my kids wear bike helmets, I’m guilty of passing neighborhood children that are bicycling on the road without a helmet, and say nothing.”
Research data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate universal bicycle helmet use by children, ages 4-15, would prevent about 40,000 head injuries and about 50,000 scalp and face injuries every year. But nearly 50 percent of children, ages 4-17, never wear a helmet while cycling
Matthew Davis. M.D., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health, believes helmet use is wise and should be a lifestyle choice.
“Wearing a bicycle helmet is essentially a health behavior,” said Davis in an article on the web site, www.roadbikerider.com. “It is not yet a fashion statement. For many kids — especially older kids — there is a tension between this healthy behavior and being seen as cool or acceptable by their peers. There is a challenge here for health care providers and public health officials to communicate that wearing a helmet is actually the cool thing to do besides being the healthy thing to do.”