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Bike helmet activist's own study finds no significant benefit in wearing one

Booze not bikes greater danger to your bonce says US medical journal

A doctor pushing for the City of Austin, Texas to adopt a law making the wearing of cycling helmets compulsory for adults is the lead author of an academic study that found that there was no significant difference in risk of head injury between cyclists wearing helmets and those without.

The study, published last month in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, and reported on the website The Vehicular Cyclist, was led by Dr Pat Crocker, which analysed 200 cyclists involved in Central Texas, instead found that alcohol use was the leading significant contributory factor to head injuries.

All of the cyclists were treated at UMC Brackenridge's Level II Trauma Center between December 2006 and November 2007, where Dr Crocker previously worked.

Data collected from patients at their bedside included whether or not they had been drinking, helmet use, their level of experience, the type of accident, where it took place and, for road accidents, vehicle speed, and the nature and extent of head injuries.

In an article published in June 2008 on the website of the Seton Family of Hospitals, which includes UMC Brackenbridge, Dr Crocker said that the study found that cyclists who “who had been drinking or using drugs - far away more alcohol than drugs - were four times more likely to have a head injury.”

He suggested that consumption of alcohol made cyclists more prepared to take risks, claiming that “while riding the bike after consuming alcohol, only one out of 40 patients was wearing a helmet, so it appears that one of the first things that happens is that riders don't bother with helmets."

The 2008 article stated that the study had been extended for a year to allow its authors to confirm their suspicions that cyclists without helmets were twice as likely to suffer serious head injury as those with, but the study published last month was unable to reach this conclusion.

Dr Crocker is a longstanding advocate of the reintroduction of an all-ages helmet law for cyclists in the city, which is home to seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, in 1996, but the following year it was amended to apply only to cyclists aged 17 and under. In 2006, the city considered reintroducing the all-ages requirement, with Dr Crocker a vocal supporter of such a move, but in the end it decided to leave the law as it was.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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