According to a new study of motorcycle collisions, motorcyclists were less than half as likely to break a nose or dent a jaw when they were wearing protection – a motorcycle helmet.
In this motorcycle helmet study…
Significant data confirm that the use of helmets reduce mortality, traumatic brain injury, and cervical spine injury and improve functional outcomes after a motorcycle crash. The relationship between facial injury and motorcycle helmets, however, has not been well-studied. A recent Cochrane review concluded that further research is needed to address the insufficient evidence on the effect of helmets on facial injury. Furthermore, reliable and valid data on the effect of helmets on facial injury are needed to better inform ongoing debates regarding mandatory helmet laws in the United States and worldwide. The objective of this study was to use the largest available trauma database to determine the effect of motorcycle helmets on the likelihood of developing a facial injury after a motorcycle collision.
The leader of this motorcycle helmet study Dr. Joseph Crompton and surgeon from the University of California, Los Angeles stated, “The number of motorcycles on the road and the number of collisions in the last several years has just risen precipitously. There’s an ongoing debate about whether state governments should require bikers to wear helmets”, he added. “And the number of states with those laws has decreased in the last few decades, due to lobbying from the motorcycle community”. Crompton, who rides a motorcycle, told Reuters Health – “I think it certainly supports the idea that there should be mandatory helmet laws”.
For the new study, he and his colleagues consulted information from the National Trauma Data Bank, including records of more than 46,000 bikers sent to U.S. hospitals after a collision in 2002 through 2005. Seventy-seven percent of bikers were wearing helmets at the time of the crash. And that proved to be a face-saving decision, according to findings published in the Archives of Surgery.
77 Percent of Bikers Wearing Helmets at Time of Crash Prevented Face Related Harm
In total, about 1,700 bikers suffered nose injuries, 2,300 had eye injuries and 800 busted their jawbones. Another 1,400 had face bruises from the collision. But helmeted bikers were less likely to come away with each of those injuries, and had a 60-percent lower chance of suffering any serious face-related harm compared to helmet-free riders, the researchers reported Monday in the Archives of Surgery.
Crompton said it’s been well documented that wearing a helmet protects motorcyclists against traumatic head injuries and death in the event of a crash. Now, he noted, there’s conclusive data showing facial injuries can be added to that list.
The researchers didn’t have information on the type of helmets bikers were wearing, so they couldn’t tell if having a face shield, for example, affected the risk of injury.
Dr. Peter Layde, co-director of the Injury Research Centre at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said face shields likely play some role in preventing injury, but helmets can also absorb blows to the side of the head and prevent fractures there from extending to the face.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 19 states and Washington, D.C. have laws requiring all motorcyclists wear a helmet. Another 28 states only require some bikers – such as those under 21 or under 18 – to wear a helmet, and Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire have no motorcycle helmet laws.
“I don’t think anyone really argues with the logic that if you wear a helmet, you’re going to have fewer facial injuries,” said Dr. Terence O’Keeffe, a surgeon from the University of Arizona Medical Centre in Tucson, who has studied motorcycle accidents and injuries. “When I see people in the (emergency room), I can usually tell immediately what kind of bike they were on and if they were wearing their helmet or not,” O’Keeffe, who also didn’t take part in the new research, told Reuters Health.
“There’s not a single study that suggests motorcycle helmets are a bad thing when it comes to motorcyclists.” But O’Keeffe said the anti-helmet motorcycle lobby and its power to bring money and tourism to or from a state, has dwarfed the science.
“I think the bigger issues are, how do we truly persuade legislatures to decide it’s worth having a motorcycle helmet law?”
Read the full study data here
Article course: Reuters health/Chicago Tribune