Study Proves Bicycle Helmets Work
June 13, 2013

Study Proves Bicycle Helmets Work

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

An Australian study reported in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention discovered what most of us already assumed – bicycle helmets help protect your head.

Scientists determined that helmets certified to meet Australia's national standard significantly reduced head, skull and brain injuries. They found crashing without a helmet exposes the head to acceleration and forces up to 9.5 times greater than with a helmet and greatly increases the risk of injury.

"Our findings confirm that bicycle helmets certified to AS/NZS 2063 do indeed work as intended and are effective in reducing linear and angular head accelerations, as well as impact force," says Dr. Andrew McIntosh, lead author of the study and associate professor at the University of New South Wales. "These results directly counter unsupported claims to the contrary by some anti-helmet cycling campaigners."

The researchers used crash-test dummies and an oblique-impact test rig to measure the loads placed on the human head in a variety of impacts that simulated real-world results from falling off a bicycle. They dropped a dummy head and neck from different heights onto a moving impact surface to replicate these real-world collisions.

During the tests, they measured angular and linear acceleration, impact force and other parameters.

"When you look at injury risk, an unprotected head is likely to suffer concussion even dropping only half a meter while you are stationary," says Dr. McIntosh. "As the height of the drop and the horizontal speed increase, so does the risk of skull and brain injury."

He said they found that a helmeted head is protected against serious injury until the most severe impacts. According to the study, helmets protected heads even when dropped five feet above the ground at 15 miles per hour.

"The study also reinforced the need to adjust the helmet restraint system correctly to gain the most benefit. It also points to areas where helmets can be improved further by introducing oblique impact tests into consumer rating programs and/or standards," Dr. Mcintosh said.

"An important component of the anti-bicycle helmet rhetoric is that helmets increase the risk of brain injury by increasing the angular acceleration of the head in an impact relative to no helmet. Our tests found that unsupported claim is wrong. In fact, there is a substantial effect of helmets in reducing head loads, including angular acceleration."

Research shows that bicyclists who wear helmets have an 88 percent lower risk of brain injury. Here in the US, researchers at Boston Children´s Hospital reported in May that putting bicycle helmet laws in place would decrease deaths and injuries by 20 percent. About 900 people die annually in bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, and about three quarters of these people die from head injuries.

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