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Cycle helmets dramatically reduce the chances of suffering severe brain trauma according to new study

Findings come after Britain’s cycling minister said cyclists should be free to choose whether they wear a helmet or not

According to researchers from the University of Arizona, helmeted cyclists have a 58 per cent reduced likelihood of suffering severe traumatic brain injury following a crash. These findings and others relating to cycle helmet use were recently presented at the 2015 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.

Earlier this week, Britain’s cycling minister, Robert Goodwill, reignited the forever smouldering helmet debate by saying that cyclists should be free to decide whether or not to wear one. Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe, echoed those sentiments later in the week. Both argue that mandatory helmet use would discourage people from cycling and thus have a broader adverse impact on public health.

The University of Arizona researchers see things differently however, advocating stricter laws for helmet use.

- German government uses Darth Vader to promote bike helmet use

According to Medical Xpress, analysis was carried out on the 2012 National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) of the American College of Surgeons and involved the records of 6,267 patients who had suffered a traumatic brain injury following a bicycle related incident. Of those people, just over a quarter had been wearing helmets.

The researchers found that among this group of patients, the ones wearing helmets had a 58 per cent reduced likelihood of suffering severe traumatic brain injury and a 59 per cent reduced chance of being killed.

The use of a helmet was also said to reduce the odds of having to undergo a craniotomy (an operation to remove part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain) by 61 per cent and the odds of suffering a facial fracture by 26 per cent.

"If you are severely injured and you were wearing a helmet, you are going to fare better than if you were not," said Bellal Joseph, the lead study author. "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."

The authors said that efforts should be made to manufacture improved helmets.

"That's where future efforts need to focus in on—making helmets that really make a difference. Ultimately, the important message is patient care and how we can make our patients safer and more protected. We need to take this data and take it to the next level and move forward with policy and injury prevention, especially for the younger age groups."

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58 comments

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scottharkins1971 | 8 years ago
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I crashed at 47mph last Sunday after hitting a pothole, on a steep descent and slid about 20ft my first point of contact with the road was my head. My helmet is smashed to bits but no head injury, just serious road rash all down my right side, ankle, knee, hip and shoulder, yes I probably would have been seriously injured had I not been wearing it, will it make me wear one going to the shops/pub? No! Just very glad it was on whilst out on a run. Personal choice every time  16

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Ush replied to scottharkins1971 | 8 years ago
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scottharkins1971 wrote:

I crashed at 47mph last Sunday after hitting a pothole,

You fucking eejit.

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crikey | 8 years ago
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Quote:

It should be optional. That way, by default, the number of non helmet wearers will reduce by natural selection.

Shhh.
Not only do you not understand the debate, you also don't understand how natural selection works...

Now that cabinet maker from the Wirral (MBE) has joined in, this could get very long indeed.  103  3

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QDubs | 8 years ago
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The Netherlands, US, and Australia all have about the same rate of head injuries, approximately 33 per 100 cyclist fatalities. The US should be lower and OZ massively lower if helmets are effective? (or conversely, all those helmetless Dutch should be dead). Why aren't helmets reducing deaths from TBI?

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velodinho | 8 years ago
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I had Thai Green Curry for dinner.

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matchfit | 8 years ago
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It should be optional. That way, by default, the number of non helmet wearers will reduce by natural selection.

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tomturcan | 8 years ago
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"If you believe everyone needs to wear a helmet for cycling, then you must -if claiming a logic stance- also campaign for wearing one in the car, walking, in the shower or climbing ladders, all head injury risks, on a par with or greater than cycling."

Not sure that's entirely logical Chris. One would need to take into account the proportion of accidents with each of those activities that resulted in head injury, compared with cycling.

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Scoob_84 | 8 years ago
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Helmets prevent reduce the chance of head injuries....shock!!

But who are these people supposedly advocating making them compulsory?

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Simon Walker | 8 years ago
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It should be a matter of choice. Why should a load of car drivers sitting in armchairs tell those of us who ride whatever the weather what to stick in our heads  45

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Chris_boardman | 8 years ago
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Without getting into the validity of the study itself, assuming we except the outcomes at face value and setting aside the greater societal impact of mass helmet use, a study like this is only relevant when put into context. If not then it is positively unhelpful if the aim is to save lives.

There have been 8 cycling deaths (I think) in London this year, each one attracting headlines. I believe there have been 62 pedestrian deaths.

If you believe everyone needs to wear a helmet for cycling, then you must -if claiming a logic stance- also campaign for wearing one in the car, walking, in the shower or climbing ladders, all head injury risks, on a par with or greater than cycling.

If anyone wants to campaign for mandatory helmet use for all of the above as well as cycling, I could at least respect that. If not then it's hypocritical and for those that want real safety, a distraction.

helmet use in the Netherlands is some of the lowest in the world at ~0.5% whilst also having the lowest incidence of cycling head injury in the world...

Chris B

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StraelGuy | 8 years ago
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"Well, eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also supposed to reduce your risk of stuff. But should we enforce that? By law?"

Please don't. I hate vegetables  20 .

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FrankH replied to StraelGuy | 8 years ago
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guyrwood wrote:

"Well, eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also supposed to reduce your risk of stuff. But should we enforce that? By law?"

Please don't. I hate vegetables  20 .

I had an awful problem hitting five a day before I realised that beer is made from vegetables and wine is made from fruit.

Come on guys, we can derail this if we really try.  1

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to FrankH | 8 years ago
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FrankH wrote:
guyrwood wrote:

"Well, eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also supposed to reduce your risk of stuff. But should we enforce that? By law?"

Please don't. I hate vegetables  20 .

I had an awful problem hitting five a day before I realised that beer is made from vegetables and wine is made from fruit.

Come on guys, we can derail this if we really try.  1

Derailments often result in head injuries. Hope you are wearing a helmet...

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Flying Scot | 8 years ago
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But does the study say the helmets themselves reduced the brain injuries, or just that people who like to wear helmets are less prone to them, perhaps because of other aspects of their behaviour ?

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cat1commuter replied to Flying Scot | 8 years ago
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Flying Scot wrote:

But does the study say the helmets themselves reduced the brain injuries, or just that people who like to wear helmets are less prone to them, perhaps because of other aspects of their behaviour ?

One aspect of behaviour might be if they had drunk alcohol. This has been mentioned on the cyclehelmets.org website. Drunk cyclists are less likely to be wearing a helmet, so it is possible that the effect reported is due to alcohol consumption, not lack of helmets.

It seems there's no paper we can read about this study. It was a presentation at a conference. These results should be treated as preliminary, since they have not been published in a peer reviewed journal.

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SteppenHerring | 8 years ago
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Well, eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also supposed to reduce your risk of stuff. But should we enforce that? By law? Looking both ways before crossing the road - do we legislate for that? There is a big gap between compulsion and recommendation.

Not sure if there are many testers on this forum, but I was recently at a CTT district AGM where the majority voted for mandatory helmets and rear lights for all CTT events. Yes, including hillclimbs. Hopefully it will be thrown out at the national level.

(BTW I usually wear a helmet but if it's a hot day and I'm riding with people I know and trust then it's such a nice feeling to do without)

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giff77 | 8 years ago
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.

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crikey | 8 years ago
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//i.imgur.com/cg5hTY4.jpg)

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atgni replied to crikey | 8 years ago
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crikey wrote:

//i.imgur.com/cg5hTY4.jpg)

Probably fully compliant with BSEN1078  41

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3cylinder | 8 years ago
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Oh, go on then....

More fodder for the helmet police, but it misses the point. I think most (but not all) would not dispute that if you are wearing a helmet that absorbs impact when you hit your head you will usually reduce the risk of injury, be that falling off a bike, tripping over a curb, having a rock fall on your head etc. But, the most persuasive arguments against helmet enforcement are nothing to do with this - they are that helmet compulsion reduces cycling rates and this is a bigger cost to society than any potential benefit from reducing (relatively rare) head injuries. There are other reasons, well covered elsewhere.

The problem is doctors, and health and safety people in general are programmed to look at the immediate individual risks and not the broader consequences.

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arnorbarkar replied to 3cylinder | 8 years ago
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Jaywalking is illegal. Does that discourage people from walking? Not that I'm for helmet enforcement, but I think legislation will increase lawbreakers, not decrease number of cyclists. To educate on the risk of injury is the way to go and people will make the right choice.

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Ush replied to arnorbarkar | 8 years ago
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arnorbarkar wrote:

Jaywalking is illegal. Does that discourage people from walking?

Well? Does it?

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to arnorbarkar | 8 years ago
1 like
arnorbarkar wrote:

Jaywalking is illegal. Does that discourage people from walking?

Its only illegal in [parts of] the US, and, yes, I suspect it does.
It was introduced as a law due to lobbying from the car manufacturers, after all, who were keen to shift legal responsibility away from drivers.

Anyway, android is clearly better than iphone and there is no God.

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Paul J replied to arnorbarkar | 8 years ago
1 like

Jaywalking is illegal.... in (parts of?) the USA. Also one of the most car-sick countries in the world. I've *tried* walking in the USA and found that often there simply is *no footpath* - in *urban* areas. (E.g. try walking from Sun Microsystems, now Facebook, building in Menlo Park to el Camino Real - no footpath in a few places, despite it all being built up with office complexes and houses).

So, yeah, countries/regions that make jaywalking illegal also seem to be countries/regions which discourage walking in other ways, and which have problems with inactivity amongst people, and a dependency on cars.

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crikey | 8 years ago
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Derail it fast!

//www.autostraddle.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/pig-in-rain-boots.jpg)

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Batchy replied to crikey | 8 years ago
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crikey wrote:

Derail it fast!

//www.autostraddle.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/pig-in-rain-boots.jpg)

New research has finally revealed that piglets that wear wellies are less likely to get their totters wet than those that don't !

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fukawitribe | 8 years ago
0 likes

...it's not going to end well, is it ?  17

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Mungecrundle | 8 years ago
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INCOMING!

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