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Gray-Haired Bicycle Riders More Likely to Suffer Injuries

SAN FRANCISCO – Emergency departments treating a lot of older patients in spandex are part of a growing trend: an increase in bicycle-related injuries, especially in adults older than 45.

A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports a significant increase in injuries related to riding a bicycle between 1998 and 2013.

Because nonfatal injuries sustained during cycling are rarely reported to the police or included in traffic statistics, the study team, led by researchers from the University of California San Francisco, had to find another data source. Study authors decided to query the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a national probability sample of approximately 100 emergency departments that gathers product-related injury data for injuries associated with bicycles from 1998 to 2013. The number of bicycle-related injuries in adults age 18 years or older was recorded in 2-year intervals.

Over the time period studied, the 2-year, age-adjusted incidence of injuries increased by 28%, while the incidence of hospital admissions increased by 120%.

Bicycle riders older than 45 made up a growing proportion of the injured, increasing 81%, from 23% to 42%. Hospital admissions also went up 66% in that cohort, from 39% to 65%.

In terms of types of injuries, head injuries increased from 10% to 16%, and torso injuries increased from 14% to 17%. The percentage of injuries occurring in the street also rose from 40% to 56%.

The study found no difference in rate of injury by sex.

"These injury trends likely reflect the trends in overall bicycle ridership in the United States in which multiple sources show an increase in ridership in adults older than 45 years," study authors note.

The researchers also point to an increase in street accidents as well as growing popularity for sport cycling, which tends to use faster speeds.

“As the population of cyclists in the United States shifts to an older demographic, further investments in infrastructure and promotion of safe riding practices are needed to protect bicyclists from injury,” according to the researchers.

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