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Bicycle Injury Rates Increase, Highlighting Importance of Helmets: Study

The number of adults treated in U.S. emergency room for cycling injuries has risen significantly over the past decade, with the most severe problems stemming from traumatic head injuries due to a lack of helmet use, according to the findings of new research.

In a study published this month in the medical journal Injury Prevention, researchers from the U.S. and Australia indicate that the rate of moderate to severe bicycle injuries among adults has increased by more than 6,500 incidents annually since 1997.

Researchers analyzed fatal and non-fatal bicycle-related data collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1997 through 2013, and separately collected cost estimates from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Injury Cost Model, and found approximately 3.8 million non-fatal injuries and 9,839 adult bicycle incidents were reported during the study period.

The study explored the cost associated with adult bicycle injuries as a second part to the study, and found medical costs associated with those injuries increased 137%. According to the data collected from the Consumer Product Safety Commission Injury Cost Model, the total estimated costs for bicycle injuries for the study period was $209 billion, and another $28 billion for fatal adult bicycle incidents.

Data from the most recent Census Bureau estimates 4 million Americans walked to work during 2013, with more than three-quarters of a million Americans riding their bikes to and from work on a daily basis. As a result of the popularity of cycling to work each day, federal highway safety officials have seen recent spikes over the last several years in cycling crashes.

Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statement earlier this year, indicating that the second quarter of 2016 represents the seventh consecutive quarter that has had increases in fatalities, compared to the same quarters in previous years, with bicycle-related crashes becoming more frequent.

Researchers say the use of helmets when bicycling is essential for preventing serious and traumatic brain injuries, and data has shown that helmets save thousands of lives annually. They can also increase the quality of life for survivors of traumatic crashes, who could have been killed or suffered long-term effects if they had not worn a helmet.

In prior studies, researchers have found that riders have almost a 60% better chance of surviving a traumatic brain injury during a bike accident when compared to those not wearing helmets, according to a 2015 study performed at the University of Arizona. The researchers looked at data from the 2012 National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) of the American College of Surgeons, reviewing records of 6,267 patients who suffered a bike accident brain injury and found that the riders wearing helmets were 58% less likely to suffer a severe traumatic brain injury, and 59% more likely to survive the injury.

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