New study: more bike helmets worn, but no decrease in head injuries

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new study shows more people are wearing bicycle helmets when hitting the streets and trails, but there is not a decrease in head-related bicycle injuries. Experts tell you all the time: if you ride a bike, wear a helmet. But that piece of protective gear might not be protecting you as much as you think.

The study shows a 67% increase in bike-related concussions from 1997-2011. Ariel Mendez runs a bike shop in Leawood, Kansas. He states the obvious but says fit is a critical part of safety.

“As soon as you are on a bicycle, you put a helmet on. A helmet that is ill-fit, that doesn’t fit you properly, won’t protect you,” Mendez said.

Liz Carlton is a nurse who heads the Trauma and Center for Concussion Management at the University of Kansas Hospital and says helmets are designed to prevent more severe injuries.

“They were developed to protect the driver from catastrophic brain injury. They weren’t developed to protect us from concussion,” she said.

She believes there are more reported concussions because doctors are doing a better job of diagnosing the injuries, though she agrees more testing could be done for helmet standards.

“I think we do need to have an evolution of that to make sure that the helmets we’re providing are as safe they can be,” she said.

Nick Comiskey picked up the sport a couple years ago. He said at higher speeds, he's not sure how much protection a helmet provides.

“I guess if you crash and you’re going 20-25 miles an hour, you’re going to be concussed. I don’t know how a helmet could help that,” he said.

The SNELL Foundation regulates helmet and safety standards. It reports injury rates are ‘highest’ for riders between ages 5 and 15.

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1 Comment

  • Kelly Durnell Taylor

    I’m just going to throw this out there… Did they ask these riders between 5 and 15 if they are following traffic laws? How many of us have seen cyclists blow through stop signs and intersections because they don’t want to lose their momentum? Maybe the rate is high for this group because they truly aren’t being careful. The helmets just can’t keep up with people being careless.