New Study Indicates Motorcycle Helmets Reduce Cervical Spine Injuries during Collisions
It may seem obvious to the general public that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is common sense. Yet over the past 15 years several states like Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania repealed their helmet laws after intense lobbying by motorcyclists. Their reasoning was based on a 1986 study by a Bowdoin College economics professor that appeared to indicate that the weight of a rider's helmet could cause enough torque to the neck to injure the spine. But a new study indicates just the opposite.
A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examined the reports of more than 40,000 motorcycle accidents between 2002 and 2006 from the National Trauma Databank, and confirmed what is generally perceived as obvious-motorcycle helmets significantly reduce brain injuries and fatalities from crashes.
The study determined that cervical spinal injuries decreased by 22 percent, traumatic brain injuries decreased by 65 percent, and fatalities diminished by 37 percent when motorists wear a helmet.
In the past decade, technology has significantly improved helmets, making them much lighter but more protective of the head. Still, only 20 states have mandatory helmet laws, including the District of Columbia.
Motorcycles continue to be popular, and with increasing gas prices they have become the vehicle of choice for many commuters. Ridership has increased dramatically in recent years, along with bigger and faster bikes and inexperienced or reckless riders.
Unfortunately, injuries from motorcycles accidents have also risen by about 5,000 each year since 1997 and fatalities have almost doubled. The growing number of riders with fewer of them wearing helmets is contributing to the increased carnage. Head injuries from motorcycle crashes is a leading cause of death. Spinal injuries can cause paralysis and a lifetime of expensive care, loss of income and physical pain.
Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are hoping that states that lack helmet laws or that have repealed them reconsider their stance and use the Johns Hopkins University study as an impetus to mandate helmet use.