Touring Tip: Protecting the Space Between Your Ears, Part 1

Nov 09, 2012 View Comments by

What organ in the human body weighs, on average, about three pounds, takes up approximately 80 to 90 cubic inches of space, is vital to virtually all bodily functions, is by far the most complex one in our body, and is highly susceptible to traumatic injury? If you answered the human brain, you’re correct. Really, it wasn’t that hard was it?

While I am in no measure a medical expert, I have learned about some of the major areas and functions of the human brain, which include: (1) the frontal lobe of the cerebrum, which processes abstract and creative thoughts, judgment, speech, movement, behavior, and other critical thinking activities that are necessary for survival and even everyday activities; (2) the parietal lobe is associated with perception, recognition, movement, and orientation; (3) the occipital lobe is responsible for visual processing; (4) the temporal lobe is involved with speech, stimuli, perception, memory, and more; (5) the cerebellum controls your balance, cardiac activity, breathing, and other similar activities; and (6) the brain stem is the motor and sensory pathway to the rest of your body.

Your brain is somewhat akin to the central processing unit (“CPU”) of a computer. If the CPU doesn’t work, then the computer doesn’t work. Loss of function in most areas of the brain, from a traumatic injury, can transform a normally functioning human into a vegetative state. And, of course, the complete absence of brain activity means … well … you’re dead!

Although your brain is wrapped inside a hard, bony skull, that doesn’t necessarily protect it from injury. A hard blow to the head can bounce the brain around inside the skull, causing trauma. Numerous newspaper and TV accounts have chronicled accidents from skiing, horseback riding, bicycling, and innumerable other active pursuits that have resulted in severe head trauma for accident victims.

Obviously, motorcycle accidents provide a rich opportunity for severe head trauma to riders. There have been documented cases where riders have fallen from a stationary motorcycle and died from a brain injury. Of course, being human, we convince ourselves that we’re very safe riders and that we will never be in a motorcycle accident. But this line of reasoning reminds me of a quote from the movie Top Gun, when the veteran flight instructor is consoling his grieving student after a training accident has claimed the life of his best friend. The instructor says simply, “If you fly jets long enough, these things happen.” If you ride motorcycles long enough, accidents happen.

But you have the ability to substantially mitigate the possibility of traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident, just by adding an extra outer protective shell to your brain: they’re called motorcycle helmets! In part two, we’ll explore the different types of motorcycle helmets, getting the proper fit, and what the various ratings mean.

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