Older Adults More Likely To Sustain Severe Injuries In Motorcycle Crashes

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Motorcycling has been dramatically increasing in popularity for the over-50 crowd for years, with one in four bikers in 2003 being over-the-hill. Along with this surge in popularity, has come a hefty price. A report in the journal Injury Prevention has found that older motorcycle enthusiasts are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger bikers.
The report found that as motorcycle accidents have steadily crept upward, injuries sustained by the over-65 crowd have significantly increased by 145 percent between 2000 and 2006. The study found that serious chest and rib cage fractures were among the most common injuries sustained.
The authors of the reports suggest that reduced bone strength in older adults and their ability to buy more powerful bikes may play a crucial role in the injury rate.
A UK-based motorcycle group has reported a similar trend to the US report.
“The number of older motorcyclists in Britain has risen over the past decade – as has the number being injured. Although the numbers are much smaller than the US, the proportion of injury in each age group is similar,” Nich Brown, from the Motorcycle Action Group, told BBC News.
“As well as an aging population, the popularity of motorcycling among older riders with the time and cash to spend means more are returning to biking or taking it up for the first time – for the most part quite safely,” he added.
The US study analyzed data from the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) for years between 2001 and 2008.
During this period, the study authors found that nearly 1.5 million adults over the age of 20 had been taken to the ER due to a motorcycle accident. Of these, those over the age of 60 were three times more likely to be admitted compared with those in their 20s and 30s, and 2.5 times more likely to sustain a serious injury. Men made up the majority (85 percent) of all ER visits due to bike crashes.
The authors broke down the numbers by type of injury, frequency and age. They found 921,229 incidents occurred in the 20-39 age group; 466,125 in the 40- 59 age group; and 65,660 in the 60+ age group. They then cross-examined the data to see if there were any discernible differences in each group.
They discovered that injury rates in all three groups increased during the study period, but the greatest rate of injury increase was seen in the 60+ age group, with biking injuries rising 247 percent. And those in the 40-59 age band didn´t fare quite so well either, being almost twice as likely to end up in the ER due to injury from a motorbike accident.
Both older age groups were also more likely to be seriously injured than their younger peers, with older bikers 2.5 times more likely to sustain a serious injury and middle-aged group 66 percent more likely to do so.
Among the types of injuries, fractures and dislocations were the most common among all age groups. But older and middle-aged bikers were significantly more likely to receive these types of injuries than the younger bikers. The older and middle-aged bikers were also more likely to have sustained internal organ damage, with brain injury being the most common.
The study authors noted that this is of grave concern, given that “head and chest injuries are associated with the lowest rate of survival” among motorcyclists.
While bone strength is diminished in older adults, adding to the evidence that the older and middle-aged individuals are more likely to suffer injuries, the authors pointed out that “other factors such as a delayed reaction time, altered balance and worsening vision may also make older adults more prone to crashing.”
Some illnesses, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes may also increase the likelihood that older and middle-aged motorcyclists end up in the ER more often than the younger riders, with more serious complications.
The authors said data was not available on the type and size of motorcycle involved in accidents, but they did suggest that older adults are often more likely to buy bikes with larger engines and more power–potentially leading to more serious injuries.
Chris Hodder, of the British Motorcyclists Federation, noted that while the UK has seen similar trends, rider training programs in his country are more widespread and have better turnouts–“while in the US training has been a mixed picture due to its size and differences across states. Also drunk-driving is a much bigger problem there.”
“There are plenty of post-test courses in the UK. If you are coming back to motorcycling it would be good to look out for refresher training. Those that ride regularly should keep their skills up. If you have the money, high-quality chest protectors are also a good idea,” he said in an interview with the British news agency.