Helmets Can Reduce Spine Injuries

Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 21, 2015

helmets spine injury

Research shows that motorcycle riders who wear a helmet are significantly less likely to suffer a cervical spine injury during an accident than those who ride without a helmet. Although the study only examined motorcycles, helmets can also protect a person from spine injuries while riding a bicycle, while canoeing or while water skiing.

The Study

For the study, researchers at UCLA examined the frequency of spinal injuries involving motorcycle riders, and if they were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. The goal of the study was to determine if helmets actually prevented spine injuries, as proponents of no-helmet laws suggest the added weight of the helmet can actually contribute to neck and spine injury during an accident. After examining crash data, researchers uncovered that wearing a helmet reduced the likelihood of suffering a cervical spine injury by 22 percent.

“This analysis of the largest trauma database ever assembled demonstrates that injured motorcycle riders are significantly less likely to suffer from a cervical spine injury when wearing a helmet compared with nonhelmeted riders, effectively debunking the myth that motorcycle helmets are associated with higher risk of cervical spine injury after a crash,” researchers wrote.

Lead researcher Dr. Joseph Crompton said helmets can significantly reduce spine injuries in the event of a motorcycle crash, but more states are doing away with helmet laws. He said it’s no surprise that motorcycle injuries and fatalities have been on the rise.

“Forty years ago, nearly all states required helmets for motorcyclists of any age in the U.S.,” said Crompton. “Today, however, mandatory helmet laws are on the books in only 20 states, despite a striking rise in motorcycle accidents and fatalities. These findings have implications for legislative policy, particularly when research is evaluated during policy debates regarding whether to repeal or implement state mandatory helmet laws.”

Helmets Protect More Than The Spine

Researchers also looked at how helmets helped protect other areas of the body. Their research showed:

  • The odds of suffering a traumatic brain injury during a motorcycle accident fell 65 percent if the rider was wearing a helmet.
  • The likelihood of suffering a fatal accident decreased by 37 percent if the rider was wearing a helmet.

So while the motorcycle may be packed away for the winter, you should really consider wearing a helmet when you dust it off this spring. This also goes for other high-speed activities, like bicycling, snowboarding or skiing. It only takes a few seconds to strap on a helmet, but failing to do so can lead to lifelong consequences.

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