Atlanta, GA,
09:20 AM

Study Shows Very Few Adults Wear Helmets While Bicycling

Shepherd Center experts encourage riders to wear helmets to prevent and lessen the severity of brain injuries.

Only 22 percent of bicyclists in severe accidents were wearing helmets, according to a recent study published in the journal Brain Injury.

Using data from the National Trauma Data Bank, researchers looked at information on 76,032 bicyclists who sustained head or neck injuries from 2002 to 2012. The research team, which is not affiliated with Shepherd Center and was led by Lagina Scott, M.D., a medical student in the class of 2017 of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science, and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, also found that cyclists who chose to wear helmets were less severely injured, spent less time in the hospital, including in the intensive care unit, and were less likely to die as a result of their injuries.

“A helmet won’t always save you from a serious head injury if you’re in a bicycle versus car accident, or hit a pothole and are launched over the handlebars off your bike,” said Ford Vox, M.D., medical director of the Disorders of Consciousness Program at Shepherd Center and a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with additional subspecialty board certification in brain injury medicine. “Unfortunately we’ve treated many cyclists who dutifully wore their helmets and still sustained a serious brain or spinal cord injury. But helmets save lives, and they can mean the difference between whether you’ll need brain surgery or not. It’s typically the unhelmeted riders who never make it home.”

The study also found that men are less likely than women to wear helmets at a rate of 21% to 28%. Data showed that men’s hospital stays after injury were longer than women’s, and the severity of their injuries were worse. Even fewer young cyclists wear helmets: Only 12% of cyclists under age 17 were wearing helmets when injured.

“Always wear a helmet, even on short rides, and encourage those you love to do the same,” said Emma Harrington, director of injury prevention and education services at Shepherd Center. “They can make a huge difference in the severity of injuries sustained.”

For more information on Shepherd Center's Injury Prevention Program, click here.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.