As you travel around China we all have seen motor scooters loaded with an entire family and no one wearing a helmet. We shake our head knowingly and think they ought to know better. But what about our own children – are they wearing helmets when they are biking around the neighborhood? And should they?
A new study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC. concluded that bicycle helmets save lives and added that their use should be required by law.
“This study highlights the importance of regulations in the promotion of safe exercise,” said lead author William P. Meehan III, MD, FAAP, director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention and the Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital.
In the United States alone (where the study took place) about 900 people die each year in bicycle crashes, three-quarters of them from head injuries. Pointing to evidence that shows helmets reduce the risk of injury and death, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all cyclists wear helmets that fit properly every time they ride. The AAP also supports legislation that requires all cyclists to wear helmets.
To determine if such laws reduce national injury and death rates, Dr. Meehan and his colleagues analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System on all U.S. bicyclists younger than 16 years of age who were severely injured or died between January 1999 and December 2009. They compared the injury and death rates in states with mandatory helmet laws to those without.
Results showed that 2,451 children suffered incapacitating injuries or died in bicycle-motor vehicle crashes during the study period. An incapacitating injury was defined as one that prevents a person from walking or normally continuing the activities he or she was capable of before the injury.
Not surprisingly, states with mandatory helmet laws had substantially higher number of riders wearing helmets and correspondingly significantly lower rates of fatalities/incapacitating injuries after bicycle-motor vehicle collisions than states without helmet laws (2 per 1 million children vs. 2.5 per 1 million children, respectively). Helmet laws continued to be associated with lower rates of fatalities and incapacitating injuries after adjusting for factors known to be associated with lower rates of motor vehicle fatalities, including elderly driver licensure laws, legal blood alcohol limit (lower than 0.08 percent) and household income.
IWS encourages kids to be stay active but have them wear a helmet and protect their precious heads.