Skull‚ facial and other head injuries from motorbike accidents doubled after a US state relaxed its helmet laws‚ new research shows.
Riding motorbikes without helmets is known to increase the risk of death and serious injury but this is one of the first studies to find that it adds to craniomaxillofacial trauma.
The researchers analysed trends in craniomaxillofacial injuries for three years before and three years after the relaxing of helmet laws and included 4 643 motorcycle patients treated in Michigan trauma centres.
Under the new law riders over 21 years old‚ with sufficient training and insurance coverage‚ were allowed to ride without helmets.
“Our study demonstrates the negative impact of weakened motorcycle helmet laws leading to decreased helmet use‚” said the lead author Dr Nicholas Adams‚ from Michigan State University in the US.
•the proportion of motorbike trauma patients without helmets more than doubled from 20% to 44%; and
•the riders without helmets were about twice more likely to suffer facial trauma than those with helmets.
“Previous studies have shown that helmets prevent nearly 40% of fatal injuries and 13% of nonfatal serious injuries. Yet‚ up to one-third of motorcycle riders do not wear helmets‚” Adams stated.
The research is published in the June issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
In South Africa all motorbikers and cyclists are required by the National Road Traffic Act to wear protective helmets.
Arrive Alive editor Johan Jonck said: “We firmly believe that everyone should wear helmets all the time — even on small‚ short distances.”
A major study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology last year found that “bicycle helmet use was associated with reduced odds of head injury‚ serious head injury‚ facial injury and fatal head injury.
“Riders don’t have to look like Judge Dredd to be safe‚ but they will roughly halve their risk of serious injury with a safe helmet.”
* For details visit: Arrive Alive
– TMG Digital/TimesLIVE