Now that the 2011 Multisport season is drawing to a close, and highlights, victories and prizes tallied, one of the "low points" requires discussion in the context of biker and athlete safety. Volunteering at the Annual Reston Triathlon packet pick up is generally a jolly experience at South Lakes High School. Herndon Virginia bicycle safety lawyer Doug Landau jokes with triathletes about their head protection, especially those that are "fragrant," "colorful," "battle scarred" and unique. However, the Landau Law Shop has seen the havoc a bike crash and traumatic brain injury can cause to even elite athletes. Normally, when the Reston Triathlon helmet inspection team tells an athlete that their helmet is unsafe, the participant understands and either gets another one from home, a friend or buys a new one. The reasons can be that the helmet: has cracks from prior impacts, is delaminating due to age (or being left in a hot car too long !), or is beyond its "useful lifespan."
The Reston Triathlon Association ("RTA") volunteers are not used to arguments when it comes to racer safety. However, this year a participant fought with Landau and the Race Directors over the decision to remove the sticker from his helmet after it was discovered that while the helmet appeared compliant, the strap that held it in place was broken. This defect could cause an eye injury. The senior inspector invalidated the helmet because it would not be secure on the biker’s head. Despite pointing these dangers out, the irate athlete argued with race officials, lecturing them on the fact that he had completed an Ironman even in this same helmet, and no one had said anything about its being unsafe.
The angry biker then removed the straps that hold the back of the head to the helmet and tried to re-submit the non-compliant equipment. The race safety volunteers explained that in the event of a bike crash, the helmet would slide forward and/or backward and afford little protection from permanent brain injury, or worse. The Reston race team asked the would-be bike racer to put the helmet on so that they could show him how the safety was compromised. He refused. Checking the results, it appears that the cyclist did not finish the race, for unknown reasons. Moral of the story: Do not argue with safety inspection volunteers who are simply trying to protect you and other sports participants from unnecessary injury and disability.