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Bike Accident Brain Injury Risk Greatly Reduced With Use of Helmet: Study

The findings of a new study highlight the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet, finding that riders have almost a 60% better chance of surviving a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during a bike accident when compared to those who were not wearing helmets. 

Researchers from the University of Arizona presented the findings last week at the 2015 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, indicating that riders wearing helmets during a bicycle-related accidents are more likely to survive and less likely to suffer severe brain damage.

The study was pursued by the researchers to find out whether helmets actually protect and mitigate the risk of brain injury during a bike accident. 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.

Additionally, the researchers found that wearing a helmet reduced the odds of craniotomy by 61%, which is an operation to remove part of the bone from the skull to expose the brains swelling.

The study also indicates that helmets not only protect riders from head traumas, but also facial injuries and fractures. The research suggests those wearing helmets at the time of the accident were less likely to suffer fractures to the upper part of the face including the eyes, nose, and cheek region. However the use of helmets did not prove to mitigate damages sustained in the lower part of the face.

“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, Dr. Bellal Joseph, in a press release issued by the American College of Surgeons. “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.”

Researchers also identified a trend that suggests the use of helmets has increased as the age ranges increased. The lowest helmet using group was seen in males between the ages 10 and 20 years old.

Less than one percent of the U.S.’s population commutes by bicycle, but in 2013, over 900 bicyclists were killed in addition to roughly 494,000 bicycle related accidents resulting in emergency room visits. Data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected that crash-related injuries to bicycles resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion or more in 2010 alone.

There are certain areas throughout the U.S. that have laws in place that require bicycle riders to wear helmets. However, the majority of inexperienced riders at young ages refuse to wear them or ignore helmet laws.

Drs. Haider and Joseph explained their study to the American College of Surgeons to encourage injury prevention programs to increase the use of helmets among bicyclists, to call on manufacturers to produce safer helmets for consumers, and for counties and states to enforce stricter laws for helmet use, especially for younger age groups.

Bike Accident Traumatic Brain Injury Risks

A traumatic brain injury, also referred to as a TBI or head injury, is one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability worldwide.

A brain injury can be caused by a direct impact to the head or by a sudden acceleration of the skull, which can cause permanent brain damage. Most commonly, TBI’s are caused by automobile accidents, falls, violence, being struck by an object, and bicycle accidents.

Side effects of a brain injury caused by a bike accident may include convulsions, slurred speech, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, lack of coordination and various other long term health problems.

In August, a group of researchers led by Marsh Konig, of the VU University of Amsterdam published a study in the medical journal, Pediatrics, indicating that children between the ages of six and 13 who suffered moderate to severe traumatic brain injury showed elevated parental ratings of behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and increased lapses of attention.

Although previous studies have indicated that a traumatic brain injury can cause attention deficit disorders in children, this study was the first to indicate that TBI at a young age may actually reduce intelligence. The researchers warned that there may be serious long-term consequences of a brain injury as a child which can lead to daily struggles as they grow into adulthood, potentially causing them to have difficulty with relationships, school performance, and participation in extracurricular activities.

Additionally, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery in July, found that patients who were treated at hospitals for TBI and were treated according to the recommended Brain Trauma Foundation (BTF) guidelines were not any better off. The evidence across 14 hospitals in the U.S. indicated the specified treatments among TBI patients has not shown any better outcomes or rates of survival.

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