Brief Alerts

Bicycle Safety Helmets Help Prevent Serious Brain Injury

Sources: Thompson DC, et al. Effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets in preventing head injuries. JAMA 1996;276:1968-1973; Thompson DC, et al. Effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets in preventing serious facial injury. JAMA 1996; 276:1974-1975.

In recent years, more attention has been given to the prevention of head injuries through the use of bicycle safety helmets. In a prospective study of 3390 bicyclists with trauma seen in seven Seattle hospitals, only 29% of patients with head injuries were helmeted (vs 56% of bicyclist control subjects who suffered non-head injuries). There was a calculated 69-74% protective effect of helmets for all severity of head and brain injury, regardless of age or motor vehicle involvement. In a related study, 21% of bicyclists sustained serious facial injury. The safety helmet significantly reduced the risk of fracture or laceration to the upper or middle face (odds ratio [OR], 0.35-0.36), but had no clear effect on serious injury to the lower face (OR, 0.88). The substantial protection of helmets for serious head and facial injury should make this simple health safety measure as compulsory as seat belts in the car. In addition, through a program of public education, helmets should also be universally adopted for a variety of high-risk activities such as roller blading, skate boarding, and skiing. —ba