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Helmets prevent serious biking injuries

A middle-aged man wearing a helmet rides his bike.

Sept. 30, 2019—If you're heading out for a bike ride, you'd better wear a helmet.

A new study in the journal Brain Injury suggests that too many cyclists aren't heeding that critical advice, which may be contributing to serious injuries and deaths.

Many injuries, few helmets

The study included data on more than 76,000 people who sustained head and neck injuries between 2002 and 2012 while riding a bike. Of these injured cyclists, only 22% of adults and 12% of young people wore a helmet at the time of their accident.

But those who had worn a helmet were less likely to be injured severely. That means they were less likely to require critical care or a long hospital stay or to die from their injuries than those who had not worn a helmet. This finding suggests that many serious biking injuries could have been prevented had a helmet been involved.

The researchers also found that some groups were more likely to ride without critical protection. Helmet use (and injury rates) tended to vary between women and men, as well as among racial and ethnic groups. For example:

  • Men were less likely than women (21% versus 28%) to wear a helmet.
  • Black and Hispanic cyclists were less likely than Caucasian and Asian riders to wear a helmet.
  • Men and all ethnic minority groups were more likely to sustain head and neck injuries in biking accidents.

So why don't more people wear helmets?

There are several possible reasons for this. For some, it may come down to comfort, lack of access or other barriers, the authors said. More studies are needed to get to the root of the problem.

But one thing is clear now: Helmets help keep riders safer. Previous studies have already shown this. So the new findings make the case stronger for helmets. The study's authors go so far as to say their findings back up the need for more mandatory helmet laws for all ages.

Safety on two wheels

Bicycling is a great way to get exercise—provided you follow important safety tips. Check out this infographic to learn some safety tips for two-wheeling it.

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