Wearing a bicycle helmet significantly reduces the risk of serious brain injury and death from a crash, a new study shows.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 6,200 people who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a cycling crash. Of those patients, just over one-quarter were wearing helmets.
Compared to those without a helmet, patients with a helmet were 58 percent less likely to have severe brain injury. They were also 59 percent less likely to die, 61 percent less likely to require surgery to remove part of the skull to expose the brain, and 26 percent less likely to have facial fractures, the study found.
The University of Arizona study was scheduled for presentation Thursday at a meeting of the American College of Surgeons in Chicago. Until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the data and conclusions should be considered preliminary.
“We know for a fact that helmets help you prevent head bleeds in case you get into a bicycle-related accident,” co-author Dr. Ansab Haider said in a college news release. “But the real question was, if you get into a bicycle-related accident and end up with a head bleed, does helmet use somehow protect you?”
The answer is yes, study lead author Dr. Bellal Joseph said in the news 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,” Joseph said.
The researchers also found that the lowest rate of helmet use was among cyclists aged 10 to 20, but helmet use increased with each decade of age until 70, when the rate fell again. Females are more likely than males to wear helmets.
The findings show the importance of promoting helmet use, developing and enforcing stricter helmet use laws, and the creation of better helmets, the doctors said.
“That’s where future efforts need to focus in on — making helmets that really make a difference,” 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.”
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about bicycle safety.