Helmet Safety

Helmets are recommended for people of all ages and all abilities when participating in activities like:

  • skateboarding
  • in-line skating
  • cycling
  • sledding
  • skating
  • skiing
  • snowboarding

Helmets can protect all of us from a serious head injury. Head injuries can happen during many different activities or sports. Whether you are participating in cycling, hockey, skating, in-line skating, skiing or snowboarding, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury. The effects of a head injury can last a lifetime, changing the way you walk, talk, play and think. 

If you are under the age of 18, you must wear a certified bicycle helmet while riding a bicycle. You can learn more by visiting Ontario's Bicycle Safety website.   

How helmets protect you

In a fall or a blow to the head, a helmet

  • absorbs the blow and spreads the impact over the entire helmet.
  • can reduce the risk of a serious brain injury, the effects of which can last a lifetime. 
  • can protect your head from other injuries such as skull fractures, cuts and bruises.

For helmets to protect you, they must fit properly and securely. Also, choose the right helmet for the right activity.

Choose the right helmet  

There are different helmets for different activities. Each helmet is designed and tested to protect your head from the impact common to an activity or sport.    

For example:

  • a hockey helmet is best for both hockey and skating as it is made for the kind of falls that happen on ice.
  • a bicycle helmet is designed to absorb blows to the head when falling from a bicycle.
  • a ski helmet is designed for side impacts, most common in downhill skiing. It is designed for use in cold weather and for similar falls and speeds. 
  • a skateboarding helmet covers more of the back of the head and will protect against more than one impact. A skateboard helmet protects against many impacts that can happen on the same spot.
  • a bicycle or multi-sport helmet that has been tested for scooter riding can be used for scooter riding.
  • a hockey or ski helmet is best for sledding and tobogganing.

Some helmets are made to protect against one hard fall (single impact) and others are made to protect against many impacts (multi-impact). Most helmets fit into one of the following types based on their level of impact:

Type of Impact


Single Impact

  • Protects against ONE impact
  • Must be replaced after a crash or hard hit, even if you can’t see any damage

Multiple impact

  • Protects against more than one impact
  • Must be replaced when you see damage

Multi-sport Helmet

  • A multi-sport helmet is a helmet that meets safety standards for more than one activity
  • Take caution when buying a multi-sport helmet.  Check the manufacturer’s label carefully to see which sports it is certified for. 

Recommended helmets for different activities

For recommendations on which type of helmet to wear for a specific sport or activity, the associated standards and more, visit Parachute Canada. It is also important to refer to the manufacturer’s owner’s manual for guidance about the intended use, fitting, care and maintenance of a helmet.  

Buying a helmet

What to look for when buying a new helmet:

  • Buy the recommended helmet for the activity or sport.
  • Look for the certification sticker found on the inside or outside of the helmet.
  • Try the helmet on before you buy it. Helmets should fit snug and comfortable. Shake your head from side to side and from front to back; the helmet should not move around.
  • When buying a helmet for a child, buy one that fits now, and not one they will grow into.
  • Never buy a used helmet. You may not know if the helmet has been in a crash, or how old the helmet is. 
  • Take your child to the store so they can try on different ones.
  • Check your child’s helmet at the beginning of every season to make sure it still fits properly.

For children under five years of age: There are special helmets for toddlers (under age five) that provide more protection at the back of the head. Some children may outgrow the “toddler” size helmet before age five and should use a bigger helmet. 

Helmets come with extra padding that can be added to the inside of the helmet at the front or the back of the helmet so that it fits correctly. 

How to wear a helmet

General tips

  • Do not wear a hat under a helmet. It will change the way the helmet fits. A hijab under a bicycle helmet or a thin tuque or balaclava under a hockey or ski helmet is okay. Check the fit and readjust the helmet if needed.
  • Baseball hats, toques, big hair clips and headphones should not be worn under a helmet.
  • Ponytails should be low on the neck.
  • There are now certified helmets available for some sports (such as for riding a bike or a kick scooter) for children who wear their hair knotted on top of their head (such as when wrapped in a patka). 
  • Do not put stickers on a helmet. They may make the plastic of the helmet weak and may void the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certification and/or the manufacturers' warranty. They can also hide cracks and other potential damage.

How to wear a bicycle helmet

Put the helmet on so that it is not tilting backward or forward. Then check the following:

Two fingers distance from helmet to eyebrow

A cartoon character placing two fingers above its eyebrow

V-shape straps around each ear

A cartoon character making a V-shape with its fingers

One finger between chin and fastened strap

A cartoon character placing one finger under its chin

Shake your head up and down, and side to side. Your helmet should stay in place and feel comfortably snug.

How to wear a hockey helmet

Put the helmet on so that it is not tilting backward or forward. Then check the following:

One finger between the chinstrap and chin

A cartoon character wearing a hockey helmet with one finger between a chinstrap and chin

One finger distance from helmet to eyebrow

A cartoon character wearing a hockey helmet with two fingers above its eyebrow

Helmet does not move

A cartoon character wearing a hockey helmet. Arrows are next to its head indicating a side to side motion.

Shake your head up and down, and side to side. Your helmet should stay in place and feel comfortably snug. 

When to replace your helmet

The plastics of a helmet dry out and may become brittle over time. Many helmets can also only take one impact before they must be replaced. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and replace a helmet:  

  • After a crash or large impact.
  • When it does not fit anymore.
  • If the helmet has a crack or is dented.
  • When the straps are frayed, torn, or do not work.
  • Every five years. 
  • Hockey helmets are designed to protect against more than one impact. They must be replaced when they are damaged, cracked, have loose-fitting or missing liner pieces, or have had a severe blow.      

Helmet use when participating in on-ice activities at City of Ottawa facilities

The City of Ottawa highly recommends that all ice users wear a CSA certified hockey helmet when participating in on-ice activities.

Public/Specialty Skating

Children 10 years of age and under are required to wear a CSA certified hockey helmet during all public or specialty skating sessions. It is highly recommended that skaters of all ages wear a CSA certified hockey helmet.

On-Ice City of Ottawa Programs

Anyone participating in City of Ottawa registered on-ice programming is required to wear a CSA certified hockey helmet. A hockey helmet with full face protection (such as a cage or a mask) is recommended, especially for young children. Individual on-ice activities may have additional helmet or equipment requirements.

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