Cycling is Top Sport for Head Injuries

Traumatic head injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on recent statistics compiled by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, which found that cycling accidents caused about 86,000 head injuries in 2009, while football, which dominates most head injury conversations, accounted for about 47,000.

In total in 2009 there were about 447,000 sports-related head injuries treated in emergency rooms in the United States. The third most common sport causing head injuries was baseball, with a little more than 38,000 related head injuries.

It is worth noting that cycling was also the number one cause of sports-related head injuries in children under the age of 14, with more than 40,000. This is nearly double the amount related to football, which totaled almost 22,000.

Of course, there are real people behind these statistics. A 15-year-old boy from Utah recently sustained serious head injuries when he was hit by a truck. He was crossing the street around 3:30 p.m. on an unmarked path when he was hit. He was not wearing a helmet, and was brought by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Witnesses say a car in the inside lane stopped for the boy but a truck towing a trailer, traveling in the outside lane, was not able to see him. Utah has a law requiring helmet use in motorcyclists 17 and younger but has no such law for cyclists.

Part of the reasoning for this is that bicycling, especially in younger children, is so commonplace, more so even than participation in football or other organized sports. Another major contributing factor is the lack of emphasis on consistent helmet use. Also unlike other popular sports, bicycling comes with its own environmental risks, such as the potential to collide with cars, sharp turns, or unmarked hazards.

If a rider is not wearing a helmet and collides unexpectedly with a vehicle the injuries can be catastrophic. For example, in 2009, about 90% of bicyclists killed in the U.S. were not wearing a helmet, and the majority of these fatalities were middle-aged men. In New York City, which recently initiated a bicycle-sharing program, about three quarters of all fatal bike accidents involved a head injury.

NYC’s bike-sharing program, Citi Bike, is modeled after similar programs in Minneapolis and Montreal, and is now the largest bike share effort in North America. It includes 6,000 bikes in 300 bike docks throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, with plans for 12,000 more bicycles into Queens.

The importance of marked bike lanes in protecting bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers cannot be overstated. Streets that have designated bike lanes have 40% fewer crashes ending in death or serious injury.

About 20 states currently have laws requiring helmets for bicyclists 17 years and younger. One study published in the Journal of Pediatricians analyzed statistics on American cyclists who were severely injured or killed between 1999 and 2009. Researchers compared injury and death rates among those 17 and younger in states with mandatory helmet laws to those rates in states without helmet laws.

They found that injury rates were about 20% lower in states with mandatory helmet laws. Experts note that similar studies from the past 20 years or so calculated that helmets help prevent 10 to 40% of head injuries. Helmets are, however, a last line of defense and can provide only limited protections. Safety strategies need to be researched and established to prevent crashes in the first place. This may include marked bike lanes, cycling traffic lights, or improved safety apparatus’ on the bicycles themselves.

Bicycle accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of bicyclists and their families. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a bike crashed caused by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to significant compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.