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Study supports theory that bike helmets reduce risk of head injury

A few weeks ago, we were talking about the high rate of fatal bicycle accidents in California (see California tops all other states in cyclist fatalities, posted Oct. 30). That study, from the Governors Highway Safety Association, found that adult males — that is, adult males in California and Florida — accounted for more fatalities than any other demographic group. The study period covered 2010 to 2012.

Not every bike accident, of course, results in the death of the cyclist. There is also a good chance that the rider will suffer a head injury. Research and anecdotal evidence have shown that a head injury, particularly a traumatic brain injury, can result in permanent physical and cognitive disabilities. Recovery can be a long and arduous process.

A study from the Davis School of Medicine at the University of California has confirmed the long-held belief that most head injuries among children are the result of preventable falls. For adolescents, there is a slightly different story: Most head injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports activities and assaults. Furthermore, most of the same age group’s particularly serious brain injuries can be traced to auto or bicycle accidents.

In both this and the GHSA study, the chief takeaway is that helmets can save lives and brains. The GHSA reported that two-thirds or more of the cyclists killed in 2012 were not wearing helmets. According to the new study, 80 percent of children injured in bike accidents were not wearing helmets.

California is one of 21 states that require children to wear bike helmets. If the law were extended to include adults, would we still be at the top of the list for fatal crashes?

Source: Diabetes Insider, “Study Looks At Head Injury Statistics In Children,” Sharron Macfarlane, Nov. 13, 2014

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