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Policy statement

Child deaths due to cycle helmets

Across the world the deaths of a number of young children have been attributed to their wearing of cycle helmets. The most usual cause of death has been strangulation.The children were not cycling when the tragedies occurred, but it is common for children at play to swap between activities without changing what they wear.

Four pathologists writing in The Medical Journal of Australia say that "Accidental hanging is still occurring among young children who wear bicycle helmets while engaging in activities other than bicycle riding. … Although such deaths are rare, it is important for parents and child carers to ensure that bicycle helmets are only worn by children for their intended purpose." (Byard, Cala, Ritchey and Woodford, 2011)

In absolute terms, the risk of death through wearing a helmet is very small. The information is significant mainly in the context that it is the only unambiguous evidence showing any relationship between fatalities and cycle helmet use. Fatalities are recorded comprehensively and accurately in most countries, but there is no statistically reliable evidence across any population of fewer deaths as helmet use has increased. A doctor in Sweden lamented, with regard to strangulations in that country and its child helmet law, "We know we have killed, but we can't show we have saved anyone". (Sweden, 1)

This information is presented here solely as a record of fact.

Year Country Child Circumstances  
2011 Sweden Boy, 3 years Helmet caught in tree
(NB: Hockey helmet but of a type often used for cycling)
Aftonbladet, 2011
2010 USA Boy, 3 years Helmet caught on backyard swingset KTRV-TV, 2010
2010 Norway Girl, 3 years Helmet stuck in tree while girl playing in kindergarden Sweden, 2
2009 Australia Boy, 5/6 years Hanged from an overhead clothesline while jumping on a trampoline SMH, 2009
2008 USA Boy Strangled. More details unknown.
2007 Australia Boy, 3 years Suspended by his helmet strap when he tried to climb out of a home window Adelaide Now, 2007
2003 Australia Boy, 2 years Suspended by his helmet strap between a bunk bed and a wall ABC, 2004b
1999 USA Boy, 3 years
Asphyxiated while wearing a bicycle helmet and playing on playground equipment. Caught between two overlapping horizontal platforms when his helmet would not fit through the gap between them where his body had already gone. BHSI, 2
CPSC, 1999
1997 Canada
Girl, 7 years Hanged when helmets entrapped in opening in playground structure.  
1984 to 1992 Sweden & Norway 6 incidents 6 cases of asphyxiation by helmet straps when the helmets caught in Swedish or Norwegian playground equipment. All boys under 6 years. 30 further non-fatal cases
CPSC, 1999


ABC, 2004b

Ambulance staff cleared over toddler's death. ABC News, 7 May 2004.

Adelaide Now, 2007

Helmet strangles boy, 3. Adelaide Now, 4 Apr 2007.

Aftonbladet, 2011

Martin ströps – av sin hjälm. Aftonbladet, 7 Jun 2011.


Playgrounds and helmets don't mix. Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.

Byard, Cala, Ritchey and Woodford, 2011

Byard RW, Cala A, Ritchey D, Woodford N., 2011. Bicycle helmets and accidental asphyxia in childhood. Medical Journal of Australia MJA 2011;194(1):49.

CPSC, 1999

Bike helmets on playgrounds. US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

KTRV-TV, 2010

Tragic accident claims young boy's life. KTRV-TV, Nov 10 2010.

SMH, 2009

Boy, 6, strangled in freak trampoline accident. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Jul 2009.

Sweden, 1

Swedish Helmet Initiative. Associated conference to the 3rd International Conference on Injury Prevention and Control. .

Sweden, 2

Sykkelhjelm årsak til dødsulykke. Barnehage. 17 Apr 2010.

See also