Injury Prevention: Helmet Use Proven Life-Saver
By Peter Pappas, MD // March 20, 2012
From a leisurely weekend bike ride to driving down the open road on a motorcycle, people love to be in motion. Sadly, thousands every year are killed or forced to endure life-long disability from head injuries involving bicycle and motorcycle crashes.
What’s worse, many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented with proper use of a helmet. Decades of research and heartbreak back up helmet use as one of the best ways to keep favorite pastimes and activities from turning into tragedy.
In our often wonderful Florida weather, bicycling is a favorite activity for adults and children alike. Learning to bicycle is a part of childhood held dear by many, but children are also especially vulnerable to the devastating effects of head injury.
Over 70 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 ride bicycles, and children in this age group account for over half of all bicycle related injuries. Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes, accounting for 60 percent of deaths and two-thirds of hospital admissions.
Traumatic brain injury can be particularly devastating for children, affecting the brain’s ability to develop at a crucial stage of our lives and leaving survivors to suffer life-long consequences that can impair speech, memory and learning.
A properly worn helmet remains the single best way to avert head injury and can be 85 to 90 percent effective in preventing a serious head injury or death in the event of a fall or crash.
Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization
Here in Brevard County, the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) plays a leading role in bicycle safety education for children. The Transportation Planning Organization utilizes the state-approved Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education curriculum in elementary schools, teaching important safety rules and emphasizing the importance of a proper helmet.
The Space Coast TPO also coordinates a program in which helmets can be provided free of charge to children financially in need. Working with partners such as the Florida Department of Health and the Central Florida Epilepsy Association, thousands of helmets have been distributed to Brevard County children.
The lessons are no different for adults and proper use of a helmet is instrumental in protecting people of all ages from head injury.
What applies to bicycles applies even more so to motorcycles. Motorcycles and motorcycle riding are part of our popular culture, symbolizing for many a sense of independence and freedom.
As is often said though, freedom comes with responsibility, and one of the most important responsibilities motorcycle riders can assume is protecting their lives through proper helmet use.
Unhelmeted Motorcyclist 40 Percent More Likely To Sustain Fatal Head Injury
The grim statistics speak for themselves. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a motorcyclist is 27 times more likely to die in a crash per mile driven compared to someone in an automobile, and an unhelmeted motorcycle rider is 40 percent more likely to sustain a fatal head injury than helmeted riders.
Helmets can protect a wearer from head injury almost 70 percent of the time and from 1984 through 2002, it is estimated that helmets saved the lives of over 13,000 motorcycle riders.
Like wearing a seatbelt when driving, proper helmet use is a powerful yet simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones while cycling or motorcycle riding. A properly fitted helmet can help you to keep the wheels turning for years to come.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A special thanks to Kim Smith, Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Coordinator for the Space Coast Transportation and Planning Organization, for her assistance with this article.
Peter Pappas, MD, is a Trauma Surgeon with the Trauma Center at Holmes Regional Medical Center. Originally from Orlando, Dr. Pappas underwent medical school and General Surgery residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and completed fellowship in Surgical Critical Care and Trauma at Orlando Regional Medical Center. He is board certified in General Surgery and Surgical Critical Care and has an active interest in research, education and injury prevention.