Doug Landau is an avid cyclist. As an All American triathlete and duathlete, he represented the United States at the World Championships in Adelaide, Australia, in October 2015. From his office at Abrams Landau in Herndon, Virginia, he can see bikers on the W&OD Trail biking without helmets every day.
He knows from personal and professional experience that head injuries can be devastating, so he decided to do something about it. Several years ago, he started giving away bike helmets to children at local schools. In 2014, he gave away “a helmet a day”—at least 365 helmets.
As part of the giveaway program, dubbed “Putting Lids on Kids,” Landau teaches children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet and about traumatic brain injuries. He shows them smashed helmets from actual crash victims and uses models of the skull and brain to show how brain injuries happen. He also teaches them how to wear a helmet properly: Law enforcement officers, elected officials, university bike club members, and school staff help custom-fit each child’s helmet. Landau also offers to replace the helmet when the child outgrows it or the helmet gets damaged. “Parents, teachers, and students have received the educational program and helmet giveaway very favorably,” he said. He estimates that he has given away more than 1,000 helmets over the years.
Landau suffered a double concussion himself in 2013. The recovery process was long, he said, and “it was like walking around in Jello.” He said he would often forget words and “would be passed out on the office couch by 2 p.m. every day.” He had studied neurology and had a good understanding of brain injuries, but he didn’t fully appreciate the recovery process until he lived it. Brain injuries require energy to heal, he explained, and most people don’t give the brain the complete rest it requires to fully heal.
He says this experience allows him to be empathetic with the injured athletes he represents and to talk to them knowledgeably about concussions. “My father was a New York City lawyer and inducted into the AAJ [American Association for Justice] Hall of Fame. He used to say that if you have any outside expertise, it can come in handy for helping people,” Landau said. “My knowledge of sports medicine and athletic participation helps me help people injured while participating in recreational activities.”
Landau’s efforts to support and educate bikers and other athletes also extends outside of local schools and injured clients. He has sponsored the Maryland & Virginia Triathlon Super Series, which includes more than 30 multisport races in the mid-Atlantic region that support local charities. At these events, Landau helps educate people about bicycle safety and sports law.
“It’s important for someone who takes something from a sport to give something back,” he said, and that is why he serves as a volunteer flagger and performs helmet safety inspections at local triathlons and has taught sports law at the Mid-Atlantic Multi-Sport Expo in Washington, D.C.