Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
70 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 ride bicycles. Even though it´s a popular pastime, it can also be dangerous. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that head injury is the leading cause of death and disability related to bicycle accidents. In a new study, researchers affirmed that bicycle helmets were effective for children who were included in a set of impact and crush tests.
Even though wearing helmets for safety is highly stressed, few bicyclists wear helmets on a regular basis. Researchers from the Illinois Neurological Institute and Bradley University noted that children are less likely to wear helmets than adults, with 15 to 25 percent of children who wear helmets regularly. In the study, the scientists examined the ability of various helmets in resisting impact and discovered that helmets can reduce the acceleration of the skull in an accident by as much as 87 percent.
“The use of bicycle helmets is an important preventive tool to reduce the incidence of severe associated [traumatic brain injury] in children as well as to minimize the morbidity of its neurological consequences,” wrote the researchers in the report.
In the study, the researchers observed the effects of impact and crush injuries on human cadaver skulls by placing a bicycle helmet on top of the skull. The results from the human cadaver skills would be parallel to the results found on the heads of living person. The scientists utilized an object that could examine the impact and compression injuries.
To understand the effects of impact injury, the skull was covered with a standard child´s bicycle helmet. It was then placed upside down and released in free fall. The researchers also used unprotected skulls and dropped them. Based on the findings, the researcher found that, during an accident, having a helmet could lower the force of head impact from 30 miles per hours to 7 miles per hour.
To test the impact of compression injuries, the team of investigators utilized a pneumatic air cylinder and placed the skull and helmet on a platform that tested various weights of compression. The researchers wanted to identify the maximum load of compression that could be withstood by the skull without long-lasting damage. The test used skulls with helmets and skulls without helmets. By the end of the study, the researchers found that the skull with the helmet was able to withstand 470 pounds of force while a skull without a helmet suffered negative consequences.
“The results we obtained in our study provide strong scientific evidence for the sometimes-neglected common-sense belief that bicycle helmets significantly increase children’s safety. As neurosurgeons, we are sometimes able to lessen the deleterious life-lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries that may occur in bicycle accidents. However, there is no doubt that the best strategy is still prevention, which in this case may be accomplished cheaply and simply by regular helmet use,” remarked Dr. Tobias Mattei, a neurosurgeon, in a prepared statement.
The researchers conclude that parents should utilize the findings to provide helmets that can keep children safe from skull injuries.
“Parents must be aware that it is their responsibility to provide and assure that all available safety measures are taken when allowing their children to participate in any kind of social activity or sport. Bicycling is not different! Parents should teach by example, and their children will easily learn what measures must be taken to protect themselves,” noted Mattei in the statement.
The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.