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Ride safely: Wearing a helmet can reduce risk of spine injury during accidents

During an accident, helmet use lowers the likelihood of cervical spine injury (CSI), particularly fractures of the cervical vertebrae, despite the claims that helmets do not protect the cervical spine during a motorcycle crash and may even increase the risk of injury.

health Updated: Mar 06, 2018 14:42 IST
Asian News International, Washington D.C.
Helmet,Injury,Spine Injury
Wearing a helmet decreases the incidence and severity of traumatic brain injury during crashes.(Shutterstock)

Turns out, helmet use is associated with reduced risk of cervical spine injury during motorcycle crashes. According to a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, during an accident, helmet use lowers the likelihood of cervical spine injury (CSI), particularly fractures of the cervical vertebrae, despite the claims that helmets do not protect the cervical spine during a motorcycle crash and may even increase the risk of injury.

Wearing a helmet decreases the incidence and severity of traumatic brain injury during crashes. What then are the objections to universal laws requiring motorcycle helmet use? Major reasons cited for not requiring helmets while riding a motorcycle include freedom of choice, avoiding any limitation on vision, and a perceived increased risk of receiving a cervical spine injury (CSI).

This last reason is based on the belief that the added weight of a helmet might increase torque on the cervical spine. The risk to the cervical spine is addressed in this study. Over the years there have been a variety of studies on helmet use and CSI in motorcycle crashes, with a couple of reports indicating an increased risk of CSI among helmeted riders and most studies finding no protective effect or harmful biomechanical risk to the cervical spine.

Co-author Paul S. Page and colleagues hypothesised that helmet use is not associated with an increased risk of CSI during a motorcycle crash and instead may provide some protection to the wearer. The researchers reviewed the charts of 1061 patients who had been injured in motorcycle crashes and treated at a single Level 1 trauma center in Wisconsin between January 1, 2010, and January 1, 2015.

There were no significant differences between groups (helmeted vs. un-helmeted riders) with respect to other types of cervical spine injuries that were sustained: nerve root injury, cervical strain, or cord contusion. In summary, Page and colleagues showed that helmet use is associated with a significantly reduced likelihood of sustaining a CSI during a motorcycle crash, particularly fractures of the cervical vertebrae.

Although the study population is small, the authors believed the results provide additional evidence in support of wearing helmets to prevent severe injury in motorcycle crashes. When asked about the findings, Dr. Nathaniel P. Brooks, co-author, stated, “Our study suggests that wearing a motorcycle helmet is a reasonable way to limit the risk of injury to the cervical spine in a motorcycle crash.”

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First Published: Mar 06, 2018 14:41 IST