Head & Neck Protection For Cyclists
Watermelon are often used to show the effect of trauma on our heads, the one on the right was inside a helmet when dropped, the other not. Helmets protect when cycling, or using an e-bike, or scooter.
As a maxillofacial clinic, we more often treat those who chose not to wear a helmet, as does the NHS. UK research shows that cycling has a far greater chance of leading to casualty visits than car driving, or public transport.
Although about half are, not all injuries will be around the head, with arms, legs and torso quite vulnerable. Those injuries can be painful but most scrapes, or fractures heal, whereas head injuries, or brain damage may not.
A helmet can prevent them, although we appreciate there are counter arguments, particularly on making helmets compulsory.
The Right To Choose
There is no doubt that cycling improves physical health, lowering the chances of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other serious illnesses. Mental health can also be improved, along with general performance in life.
The fear is that if helmets were compulsory, less people would cycle and the nation’s health be harmed, causing more damage than they saved.
There are also concerns on government doing less to separate cyclists and motorists, because they felt they were safer. Drivers might take less care with cyclists who were “protected”, or cyclists themselves take more risks.
All valid points but they don’t entirely allow for change becoming normalised over time, as with seat belts, work related health and safety, or vaccination.
Being resistant to change is human and we should all respect that by retaining choice. Even so, in the case of cycle helmets, are there really two choices.
Long Term Evidence
With the argument on helmet wearing a worldwide issue, ample research has been carried out. This varies but overall, helmets reduce the number of head injuries by around 50% and facial injuries by a little less.
Not bad you may feel, although they can have a more significant impact. Serious, or fatal head injuries are reduced by 70%, the key to the value of a helmet is controlling severity.
You could still end up with a couple of stitches but better than fractures spanning your face. A sore neck for a week or two from spinal shock is a more desirable outcome than paralysis.
Modern cycling helmets are light and easy to wear. They can help to avoid months in hospital, or for a few people, losing your life. On a rational risk and reward calculation, the choice seems evident.
The Maxillofacial Angle
If you choose to wear a helmet, we may see less of you, or see you for less time. As a clinic which treats highly complex head and facial trauma, we aren’t disconcerted either way but less severe injuries have an advantage.
Our patients return to normality far quicker, with lower anguish and stress along the way. They are happier, so all our staff are.
Choosing to wear a helmet can also help to make them accepted, leading others to do the same, which could reduce waiting times in casualty. Your family may feel you are safer, removing stress there.
The choice is yours and perhaps that is as it should be. We simply ask that you consider all the facts before reaching a decision.