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Are helmeted cyclists more susceptible to certain kinds of injuries?

Here in Florida, we have had a partial motorcycle helmet law in effect since 2000.

What the law essentially dictates is that anyone who is at least 21 years old and carries a minimum of $100,000 in medical insurance to cover potential motorcycle-related injuries can go without a helmet.

While these requirements have been satisfied by a seemingly endless number of motorcyclists who want nothing more than to feel the wind in their hair as they cruise the state's roads and highways, a recently published study in the medical journal JAMA Surgery may cause a few of these enthusiasts to reconsider their stance on helmets.

What exactly did the study find?

The researchers constructed a sizeable data pool consisting of nearly 86,000 people who suffered some sort of personal injuries in motorcycle accidents across the U.S. between 2007 and 2010, paying extra attention to the number and extent of injuries to the necks, heads, spines, torsos and extremities of these riders.

Here, they discovered that those motorcyclists wearing helmets were considerably less likely to die and roughly 50 percent less likely to end up with serious head injuries.

Did they discover anything else?

While the discovery that helmeted motorcyclists are less likely to die or suffer severe head trauma than their non-helmeted counterparts is certainly encouraging, it's hardly shocking.

What was somewhat shocking, however, was that the researchers found that helmeted motorcyclists were actually considerably more likely than non-helmeted motorcyclists were to suffer chest-related trauma or injuries to their extremities.

What's behind this revelation concerning helmeted motorcyclists?

The researchers attribute the differing injury pattern to the simple fact that helmeted motorcyclists have a better chance of living.

"The fact that injury patterns are different makes a lot of sense, because the helmets are going to help you survive," said one physician unaffiliated with the study. "A lot of people have all these torso injuries because their head is saved."

Are there any other explanations as to why helmeted motorcyclists are more likely to suffer injuries to their torso or extremities?  

At least one physician, not involved with the research efforts, advanced the theory that helmets may create a sort of false sense of security among riders, such that they feel safer driving faster and/or making more risky maneuvers.

While this study is indeed fascinating, the reality is that helmet or no helmet, motorcycle accidents are almost always devastating and when these devastating injuries are caused by the negligence of another motorist, injured riders and their families deserve justice.

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Busciglio & Sheridan Law Group
3302 N. Tampa Street
Tampa, FL 33603

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