redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Despite California state regulations mandating their use, only 11 percent of Los Angeles County children treated for bike-related injuries between 2006 and 2011 were wearing helmets, according to research presented Saturday at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition.
Specifically, the analysis of 1,248 bicycle-related accidents found that children over the age of 12, low-income and minority children were less likely to wear the potentially life-saving headgear, study author Dr. Veronica F. Sullins of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said at the Orlando conference.
Dr. Sullins and her colleagues reviewed the records of pediatric patients involved in bike accidents from the Los Angeles County database from 2006 to 2011. The data reviewed included helmet use, age, gender, insurance status and race/ethnicity before checking to see if there was a link between helmet use and the need for emergency medical attention, morbidity, mortality and/or length of hospitalization, the AAP said in a statement.
The median age of the children was 13, and 64 percent of them were male, the researchers discovered. A total of 11.3 percent of patients wore helmets, including 35.2 percent of white children, seven percent of Asian children, six percent of black children, and four percent of Hispanic children.
In terms of insurance coverage, 15.2 percent of children with private insurance wore helmets at the time of injury, compared to 7.6 percent with public insurance. Children over age 12 were less likely to wear a helmet. A total of nine patients died, eight of whom were not wearing a helmet, while 5.9 percent of those injured required emergency surgery. A total of 34.1 percent of the children returned to their pre-injury capacity.
“Our study highlights the need to target minority groups, older children, and those with lower socioeconomic status when implementing bicycle safety programs in Los Angeles County,” Dr. Sullins said, noting that the study emphasizes the need to reinforce bicycle safety, especially in low-income and minority youngsters.
“Children and adolescents have the highest rate of unintentional injury and therefore should be a high priority target population for injury-prevention programs,” she added. Regional research, such as this one, can help identify at-risk populations in specific communities, allowing regions to use their safety-related resources more effectively.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1,000 people die from injuries related to bicycle crashes each year, and another 550,000 men and women receive emergency care for these types of injuries annually. Furthermore, head injuries account for approximately 62 percent of bicycle-related deaths, 33-percent of bicycle-related emergency department visits, and 67-percent of bicycle-related hospital admissions.