Helmeted bicycle riders have significantly reduced severity of injury after a Crash
National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) of the American College of Surgeons
October 8, 2015
Helmeted bicycle riders have a 58 percent reduced odds of severe traumatic
brain injury after an accident compared to their non-helmeted counterparts,
according to researchers from the University of Arizona, Tucson. Their
findings were presented today during the 2015 Clinical Congress of the
American College of Surgeons.
The researchers performed an analysis using the 2012 National Trauma Data
Bank (NTDB) of the American College of Surgeons, analyzing records of
6,267 patients who had a traumatic
brain injury after a bicycle related accident. Among the group of patients, just over
25 percent were wearing helmets.
"We know for a fact that helmets help you prevent head bleeds in case
you get into a bicycle-related accident," said Ansab Haider, MD,
one of the study coauthors. "But the real question was, if you get
into a bicycle-related accident and end up with a head bleed, does helmet
use somehow protect you?"
The researchers found that among this group of patients—those who
sustained traumatic brain injury after a bicycle related accident—the
ones wearing helmets had a 58 percent reduced odds of severe traumatic
brain injury and a 59 percent reduced odds of death. Further, the use
of helmets reduced by 61 percent the odds of craniotomy (an operation
to remove part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain) and
facial fractures by 26 percent.
"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, MD,
FACS, 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 researchers also looked at the impact of
age and gender on bicycle accidents where a
traumatic brain injury occurred.
"We tried to see how the pattern of helmet use varied over different
age groups," Dr. Haider said. "The lowest incidence of helmet
use was seen in the age group of 10-20 years of age. But as we went up
every 10 years, the likelihood of helmet use went up."
Drs. Joseph and Haider said that the trend of helmet use increasing with
age continued to rise with each decade of life, until the age of 70, when
the rate went back down for the first time. They also found that females
are more likely to wear helmets than males.
The researchers also found that in the patients they studied, the likelihood
of facial fractures was higher for those who weren't wearing a helmet
at the time of the accident. Dr. Haider said that helmet use helped prevent
fractures to the upper part of the face, including the area around the
eyes, the orbital lobe. However, helmet use wasn't as effective at
preventing fractures to the lower part of the face, such as mandibular
jaw or nasal fractures.
As a result of their findings, Drs. Haider and Joseph said that the next
step is to create injury prevention programs to increase helmet use among
bicyclists, to manufacture better helmets, and to develop and enforce
stricter laws for helmet use. They said that they already participate
in many prevention programs in Tucson, which is a very bike-friendly city.
"That's where future efforts need to focus in on—making
helmets that really make a difference," Dr. Joseph said. "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."
Provided by: American College of Surgeons