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Can You Suffer a Brain Injury While Wearing a Bike Helmet?

Everyone knows bicycle helmets save lives – but many cyclists may be placing too much trust in their protective headgear. Studies have found that bicycle helmets are effective at reducing the risk of serious head and brain injuries by almost 70%, but this does not mean they are completely failsafe. The risk of a brain injury is still very real in a bike accident, even while wearing an approved, top-of-the-line helmet. Get the facts before you get hurt while riding your bike in California.

How Do Most Brain Injuries Happen?

Injuries to the neck, face, head, and brain are unfortunately rather common in bicycle accidents. Many accident-related brain injuries don’t happen in high-velocity impacts. Instead, it is the low-speed accidents that generate the most concussions. Concussions happen when any type of blow to the head causes the brain to rotate inside the skull or to form blood clots. A mild concussion might not cause significant symptoms, but a severe one could lead to dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, behavior changes, sleep problems, confusion, and memory loss.

Blows or jolts to the head are the most common causes of brain injuries in bicycle accidents. If the head strikes the asphalt, the vehicle, and/or another object in the collision, it could cause a head injury such as a skull fracture, as well as brain damage. The most serious brain injuries can make a permanent difference in how the victim thinks, acts, moves, and speaks. One of the best ways to reduce your risk of such an injury is to wear your helmet while riding a bike.

Benefits of Wearing a Helmet

Bicycle helmets are mandatory for riders under the age of 18 in the state of California. Adult bicyclists, however, are free to wear or not wear helmets as they choose. Helmet-wearing might not be a legal requirement for you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one. According to one major study of more than 64,000 cyclists, helmets can reduce the risk of fatal head injury by 65%. The findings related specifically to serious and fatal head and brain injuries, where the risk reduction was the greatest.

Based on the study, bicyclists who wore helmets were 51% less at risk of sustaining head injuries, 69% less at risk of serious head injuries, 65% less at risk for fatal head injuries, and 33% less at risk for injuries to the face. These statistics are certainly significant and should be enough to convince all bikers to strap on helmets before hitting the roads or sidewalks in San Diego. However, it is not true that a bicycle helmet will 100% prevent a brain injury from happening.

Brain Injuries Despite Helmet-Wearing

While there’s no arguing that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of injuries to the face, head, and brain, they do not offer completely failsafe protection. Even with a federally-approved, perfectly-fitted bicycle helmet, a bicyclist can still sustain a serious or fatal head injury in an accident – especially in a collision with a motor vehicle. The brain is a delicate organ that can sustain serious damage if it knocks against the inside of the skull, suffers a puncture wound, swells, or starts to bleed. These injuries can happen with or without a bicycle helmet present.

Some people – including a brain surgeon – even believe that it’s safer not to wear a bicycle helmet. Dr. Henry Marsh, a London neurosurgeon, says that many bicycle helmets are too flimsy to offer any real protection. He goes on to say that bicycle helmets could even increase the risk of serious head and brain injury by falsely increasing the illusion of safety. A bicyclist might act more recklessly while wearing a helmet, and a motorist might feel more comfortable driving closely to a biker who is wearing a helmet. Dr. Marsh cited a UK study from 2006 to support this theory.

Bicycle helmets might not be perfect, but they still considerably reduce the risk of head and brain injuries. Wear your helmet to maximize your personal safety.

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