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Study Explores How Bicycle Helmets Would Have Protected Crash Victims’ Brains

What if it were possible to go back in time and see exactly what the outcome would have been if you had done things differently?bicyclists3

That’s what scientists with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology worked to accomplish in “rewinding” three bicycle accident scenarios in which the cyclists were not wearing helmets.

The videos offer reenactments of three different bicycle accident scenarios – showing the exact portions of the cyclists’ brains that suffer injury. Then, the researchers reenact those very same crashes to show how it would have gone differently had the rider been wearing a helmet at the time of impact.

The computer-simulated visualizations were done by a neuronics researcher. In each case, they were able to show how much the brain tissue was stretched in each instance using a detailed models of the head. Then, they compared their results to the CT images of the riders’ damaged brains.

Researchers concluded that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce riders’ risk of a concussion by almost 55 percent.

Massachusetts bicycle helmet law requires all riders and passengers 12 and under to wear helmets when riding. Older passengers don’t have to wear helmets, but it’s still a smart idea.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reported in 2013 that cycling accidents are the No. 1 cause of sports-related brain injuries in the country, accounting for 86,000 of the total 447,000 treated in emergency rooms in 2009. By comparison, football accounted for 47,000 head injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.

The Bike Helmet Safety Institute reports 57 percent of bike-related deaths can be prevented by using a protective helmet. Every year, 135 deaths, 400,000 injuries and 20,000 injuries and 20,000 scalp and face injuries among children 4 to 15 could be prevented with bike helmets.

Among children over 12, 89 percent involved in bicycle accidents were not wearing a helmet – which dramatically increased their risk of a traumatic brain injury, according to research presented at the 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition. Researchers looked at cases of 1,248 children involved in bike crashes in Los Angeles County from 2006 to 2011. Of those, the median age was 13 and nearly 65 percent were male. Nine of those involved in the study died as a result of their brain injuries.

These research results are seen over and over. Last year, researchers at the University of Arizona found that helmet-wearing cyclists were 58 percent less likely to suffer a serious head injury. The study analyzed almost 6,300 patients who suffered brain injury after bicycle accident, and found only 25 percent had been helmeted.

Traumatic brain injuries are among the most common reasons for a person to file a bicycle accident lawsuit in Boston. The lawyer at bikeattorney.com  and The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman can help.

Helmets work to reduce the initial impact to the brain and to prevent head bleeds.

Even when helmeted riders do end up suffering a head injury, researchers have found, they were less likely to die and their injuries were generally less severe.

Although riders do place themselves at risk when they do not wear a helmet, it is not grounds to be found contributorily negligent. M.G.L. 85, Section 11B specifically forbids evidence of helmet use from being used as evidence of contributory negligence in a civil action.

Additional Resources:

Rewinding a bike crash shows how helmets protect, April 14, 2016, By David Callahan, KTH

More Blog Entries:

Boston Bicyclists Navigate Treacherous Landscape, March 20, 2016, Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog