Why You Should Wear Your Helmet

Helmets may significantly reduce injury severity in bicycle accidents

(RxWiki News) The effectiveness of protective headgear in bicycle-related accidents has long been a topic of debate. But new evidence suggests that Mom was right — helmets can save lives.

A new study from the University of Arizona (U of A) found that bicycle riders who wore helmets had a 58 percent reduced risk of severe traumatic brain injury after an accident than non-helmeted riders.

"If you are severely injured and you were wearing a helmet, you are going to fare better than if you were not," said lead study author Bellal Joseph, MD, FACS, an associate professor of surgery at U of A, in a press release. "When you hone in on that severe group of people who actually developed a brain injury, and then look at how they did, the helmet really made a difference."

For this study, Dr. Joseph and team used data from the 2012 National Trauma Data Bank of the American College of Surgeons to look at 6,267 patients who sustained a traumatic brain injury after a bicycle-related accident. Among these patients, about 25 percent were wearing helmets at the time of the accident.

These researchers also looked at the potential impact of age and gender on these accidents.

Patients who wore helmets had a 58 percent reduced risk of severe traumatic brain injury and a 59 percent reduced risk of death compared to those who didn't wear helmets.

The use of helmets also reduced the odds of craniotomy (an operation to remove part of the skull to expose the brain) by 61 percent and facial fractures by 26 percent.

The lowest rate of helmet use was found among patients ages 10 to 20. As age increased, the likelihood of helmet use also increased — until age 70, when the rate went back down again. Women were more likely to wear helmets than men.

Dr. Joseph and team said they hope this study will lead to increased helmet use among bicyclists, the manufacturing of safer helmets and the development of stricter helmet laws.

"That's where future efforts need to focus in on — making helmets that really make a difference," Dr. Joseph said. "Ultimately, the important message is patient care and how we can make our patients safer and more protected. We need to take this data and take it to the next level and move forward with policy and injury prevention, especially for the younger age groups."

This study was presented Oct. 8 at the 2015 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
October 11, 2015