ER Doctors Stress Importance of Helmets to Save Lives, Prevent Brain Injury

May 7, 2010
Emergency physicians, who see firsthand the tragic consequences when people don’t wear helmets during outdoor activities such as riding bicycles and motorcycles, are reminding the public that helmets save lives and reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury.

“People are riding bicycles, motorcycles and ATVs more often at this time of year,” said Angela Gardner, M.D., president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “Now is the time to get in the habit of wearing a certified safety helmet, because it only takes is one tragic crash to end your life or cause serious injuries to your brain that can alter your life forever.”

Helmet use is the best way to reduce bicycle head injuries and fatalities from crashes. More than 300,000 children are treated in emergency departments with bike injuries every year and nearly two-thirds (70 percent) were because of head injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet, according the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Bicycle Helmets

  • Bicycle helmets are nearly 90 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, according to NHTSA.
  • Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4 to 15 would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries.
  • About 540,000 bicyclists seek emergency care with injuries each year. Of those, 67,000 have head injuries and 27,000 of them have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.

ACEP recommends that bicycle riders wear helmets that meet or exceed the safety standards developed by the Consumer Product Safety Administration. A proper bike helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and not rock forward and backward or side to side. Helmet straps must be buckled snugly, but not too tightly. Helmets are important for bicyclists of all ages; older riders represent more than three-quarters of bicycle deaths.

Motorcycle helmets are effective as well. “Helmet use is the single most important factor in people surviving motorcycle crashes,” said Gardner. “They reduce the risk of head, brain, and facial injury among motorcyclists of all ages and crash severities.”

Motorcycle Helmets

  • NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of more than 1,800 motorcyclists in 2008.
  • An additional 800 lives could have been saved if all of those motorcyclists had worn helmets.
  • Motorists without helmets are 40 percent more likely to die from a head injury.

Gardner added that helmet use isn’t restricted to just bikes or motorcycles.

“People should be wearing helmets when roller skating, rollerblading, skateboarding or playing any type of hard-hitting contact sports,” Gardner said.

For more information on helmet safety or any other health related topic, please visit

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