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Bike Helmets Save Lives

Wearing a helmet while biking has always seemed like a good idea; however, a recent study just reinforced that belief with the undeniable proof that helmets protect and save lives. Researchers sought to prove that wearing helmets is beneficial and they were able to prove this beyond any question. The study compared the results of dropping water-filled human skulls that were both helmeted and not helmeted to determine the importance of wearing a helmet while biking. The research was conducted by residents at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, and the results were not surprising.

The study confirmed that helmets that meet U.S. standards do protect riders from head injury. Researchers dropped the skulls, both helmeted and bare, from a range of different heights onto a metal anvil. The skulls were dropped beginning at a height of two feet and continued upward until a fracture resulted. Monitors were placed on the skulls to compare the force the head absorbs when it comes to an accelerated stop.

In 2004, an estimated half a million Americans received emergency medical treatment for bicycle-related injuries. 600 people died from bicycle accidents and two-thirds of the deaths were attributed to traumatic brain injuries. Research indicates that children 15 years and younger are at the greatest risk for bicycle-related injuries. Children in this group account for 40% of the deaths from bicycle accidents.

In 1999 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued updated national safety standards for bicycle helmets. The standards stated that helmets needed to ensure that they did not block rider vision, that they would not fall off when a rider is involved in a fall, and that they would provide substantial protection for impact with a hard surface.

The study examined four identical helmets that are commercially available to riders today. The amount of water placed into each helmet was equivalent to the weight of a child’s head, approximately four pounds. Researchers were able to conclude that the helmets that met U.S. safety standards did offer the intended head-injury protection. The researchers were able to determine that this protection was available for falls that happened as high as three feet from the ground.

The bare skulls suffered dramatic injuries from the impacts, ranging anywhere from four to eight times the damage of the helmeted skulls. Researchers also simulated crushing accidents, such as the impact of a car in an accident. They were able to determine that again, helmeted skulls were much more protected and less likely to sustain injury. The helmeted skulls were able to handle compression from loads as heavy as 470 pounds. The bare skulls however, fractured under such circumstances.

Although wearing a helmet is crucial in preventing serious, possibly life-threatening brain injuries, it is also important that the helmet fits properly. Riders should make sure that a helmet fits snuggly to the head and that it is low over the forehead. There is a correct way to wear a helmet to ensure the maximum benefit for riders.

The results of this research were of no surprise. Researchers were able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that wearing helmets saves lives and protects riders from serious injury. Research conducted in 1999 stated that helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injury by nearly 88%; these latest findings merely reinforce that evidence. Riders need to reexamine the importance of wearing not only a helmet, but also the value of finding one that fits properly. Wearing a helmet while biking is clearly important and the small cost of the proper helmet is nothing compared to the loss of life that can occur from choosing not to wear one.

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