Study finds helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 70%

Researchers say findings support mandatory helmet laws for injury prevention

A study conducted by statisticians from the University of New South Wales has concluded that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 70 percent.

Presented in Finland this week at Safety 2016, the review was lead by Australian statisticians Jake Oliver and Prudence Creighton who had compiled data from more than 40 studies which found helmet use reduced head injuries.

16.5 percent of Australians say they would ride more often if they were not required to wear a helmet at all times

“Helmet use is associated with odds reductions of 51% for head injury, 69% for serious head injury, 33% for face injury and 65% for fatal head injury. Injuries to the neck were rare and not associated with helmet use,” the study found.

“These results suggest that strategies to increase the uptake of bicycle helmets should be considered along with other injury prevention strategies as part of a comprehensive cycling safety plan.”

However, the researchers warned that helmets are not a one size fits all solution to cycling injuries and did not eliminate head or face injuries, or offer protection for other body parts.

Safer cycling

Australia is the only country in the world with compulsory helmet laws as well as its own unique helmet standard, it's a controversial topic and previous research has been a mixed bag as to its effectiveness. But the study says that "irrespective of past research, the results of this review do not support arguments against helmet legislation from an injury prevention perspective."

However, a study conducted by the Cycling Promotion Fund in conjunction with the National Heart Foundation found 16.5 percent of Australians say they would ride more often if they were not required to wear a helmet at all times.

In spite of the findings of this new study, many big cities around the world have found that the best way to protect cyclists on the road is through separated infrastructure, which has been supported in a study conducted by Transport NSW.

"Confidential analysis prepared by Transport for NSW shows separated bike lanes installed in central Sydney have doubled the number of cyclists on the road but led to fewer total injuries among them," as reported by Jacob Saulwick of Fairfax Media. "Detailed analysis shows... the number of reported injuries has been halved on the sections of road where separated cycle ways have been constructed."

All of this comes less than a year after the New South Wales Government raised the fine for not wearing a helmet from AU$71 to AU$319.

Colin Levitch

Staff Writer, Australia
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Colin now resides in Sydney, Australia. Holding a media degree, Colin is focused on the adventure sport media world. Coming from a ski background, his former European pro father convinced him to try collegiate crit racing. Although his bright socks say full roadie, he enjoys the occasional mountain bike ride, too.
  • Discipline: Road, mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Tarmac mountain climbs into snow-covered hills
  • Current Bikes: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9
  • Dream Bike: Mosaic Cycles RT-1
  • Beer of Choice: New Belgium La Folie
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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