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Do Motorcycle Helmets Reduce the Chance for Brain Injury?

Published on Oct 21, 2013 at 8:11 am in Motorcycle Accident.

A multi-year study found that when motorcyclists were involved in accidents, about 17% of riders also incurred a brain injury. That means, perhaps surprisingly, that nearly 83% of the accidents caused serious injury only to other areas of the body.

The question many people have is, do motorcycle helmets significantly reduce the chance for brain injury? The multi-year study found that of those riders wearing a helmet, 12% experienced a head injury. Of those not wearing a helmet, 20% experienced a head injury – so the answer, in general, appears to be yes.

Helmets, in General, Reduce Brain Injury

Other studies have confirmed that helmets significantly reduce the chances of brain injury in both single-and multiple-vehicle crashes. Models estimate that helmets are 41% effective at preventing brain injury in single-vehicle crashes, and 25% effective in multiple-vehicle crashes.

Other Factors are at Play

While the helmet data appears incontrovertible, some motorcycle groups are quick to point out that more than half of motorcycle accidents involve young and experienced riders. Indeed, more than 50% of accidents do involve male riders aged 16 to 24. This group comprises young men who are often pressured by our culture to engage in risky behaviors to “prove” that they’re tough.

Also of interest, more than half of riders in motorcycle accidents had less than five months’ experience on the bike involved, and less than three years’ riding experience in total. In addition, up to two-thirds of motorcycle accidents are caused by rider error.

Another significant factor is that motorcycle riders who have been using alcohol or drugs are twice as likely to be involved in an accident that causes them brain injury. Speed also increases the odds of a brain injury in a crash, by up to 1.5 times.

Taking these facts into account, some would conclude that seasoned motorcyclists – who don’t drink and ride, or speed recklessly – receive relatively less protection from helmets.

State laws are split as to whether adults are required to wear motorcycle helmets, so be sure you know the minimum requirements where you live.