Head injury is the leading cause of serious morbidity and mortality in bicycle accidents. There is good evidence to recommend helmets, yet few children wear them. Following a survey of children presenting to the emergency room with a bicycle injury, helmet promotion was evaluated in a randomized trial. The intervention consisted of physician counseling and take-home pamphlets. The study involved 334 children: 161 in the intervention group and 173 in the control group. In a follow-up telephone call, 2 to 3 weeks later, only 9.3% of the intervention group had purchased helmets, compared with 8.0% of the control group. Families in the intervention group received further counseling during the telephone contact, resulting in one additional purchase at 6-week follow-up. Evidence that a bike injury motivates cyclists to purchase helmets, and the influence of the self-administered questionnaire most likely account for the high purchase rate in the control group. Surprisingly, the helmet promotion intervention, including follow-up phone counseling, made no further impact. The results probably are best explained by a "double threshold" effect. Certain families were easily encouraged to buy a helmet, whereas others were far from ready to adapt this fairly recent innovation as routine cycling equipment. The findings suggest that physicians interested in helmet promotion would do better to participate in the design and implementation of multidisciplinary community campaigns.

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