Study: Bike Helmet Laws Reduce Brain Injuries and Deaths

Bike helmet laws seem to work. At least that was the conclusion of a recent study done by researchers in the Department of Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and reported at the national meeting of the Pediatric Academic Society.

These scientists used data from 1999-2009 and found that the number of deaths from bike-related accidents decreased by nearly 20 percent in states that have laws mandating use of a helmet when riding a bike. In addition, the study found that brain injuries after bike accidents decreased by 88 percent when bike helmets were worn.

The states that have helmet laws enforce them among slightly different age ranges, but almost all include mandatory helmet use for children up to age 16.

Twenty-nine states still have no laws requiring the use of bike helmets.

Oh, I know, everyone has a different opinion on whether we need laws for this kind of issue. But regardless of where you stand on that point, this study illustrates a most important take-home point: Bike helmets work and they should be used.

With warmer weather across the country, more families are taking their bikes out for rides. Some important points to remember:

  • Bike helmets should always be worn when riding, not just sometimes. You don’t know when an accident is going to happen. Accidents can happen in your own driveway. Our heads don’t do well when they crash into concrete. 
  • The ability to ride a bike adeptly—even expertly—doesn’t necessarily protect you from an accident. Your child may be a great rider—but they might not see a potential road hazard or a car may not see them.
  • You may think you are invincible, but parents have to wear helmets, too. Some of the worst brain injuries from recreational biking I’ve seen have actually been suffered by adults, not by their children. Plus, you need to be a role model. Your kids are watching.
  • Make sure the helmet fits correctly. The chinstrap should be snug. The helmet should sit on top of the head (not tipped back with the forehead exposed) and should not impair vision. 

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