Motorcycle Helmets Reduce Spine Injuries

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , February 10, 2011

Anti-helmet groups often cite the Goldstein study which found more spine injuries in helmet wearers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rapped the Goldstein study’s flawed statistical reasoning. “Additionally, helmet technology has significantly improved since that time; now helmets are much lighter, but even sturdier and more protective,” Haider says.

Forty years ago, Haider says, nearly all states required helmets for all motorcyclists. Today, helmets are mandatory for all riders in only 20 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Motorcycle use has risen sharply over the past 10 years in the United States. Since 1997, motorcycle injuries in the U.S. have increased by roughly 5,000 per year and motorcycle fatalities have nearly doubled, according to the new journal article.

Haider's study, like many others before, found a reduction in risk of traumatic brain injury in helmet wearers (65%) and decreased odds of death (37%). But the new paper is the strongest evidence yet that helmets significantly reduce cervical spine injury, which can result in paralysis, Haider said.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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