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Study Dispels Myth That Motorcycle Helmets Break Necks

 Posted on May 09, 2018 in Motorcycle Accidents

Rockford motorcycle crash lawyersAs spring turns into summer over the next few weeks, more and more motorcycles will be out on Illinois roadways. Helmet laws have long been a topic of intense debate for motorcycle riders across the country, as each state has the freedom to make its own laws—or not—regarding helmet use. In Illinois, there are no helmet laws for motorcycle riders, which means that each rider must decide for himself or herself whether or not to wear one.

Advocates of mandatory helmet laws believe that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of serious injury in a crash—an outcome that serves the public interest. Those who oppose helmet laws maintain that because it is the rider who is at risk, the rider should have the freedom to go helmetless. Some riders even go so far as to suggest that while helmets may protect the head from impacts, they can actually cause neck injuries.

Added Weight

The basis for the claim is that a helmet adds weight to the riders head and neck. When the motorcycle is moving, the head and helmet combination is moving at the same speed. If the motorcycle stops quickly—such as during a crash—the head and helmet will continue moving forward. The theory holds that in many cases, the inertia of the head and helmet is too much for the rider’s neck, which can cause broken vertebrae or even a severed spinal cord.

A New Study

While the claim that helmets cause neck injuries seems to have at least some basis in science, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health wanted to determine if real-world data supported the idea. A team of UW Health neurosurgeons looked into the cases of more than 1,000 motorcycle crash victims who had been treated at the University Hospital’s trauma center between 2010 and 2015. Due to fairly lax helmet laws in Wisconsin, only about one-third of the victims were wearing helmets at the time of their accidents.

The researchers found that riders without helmets suffered neck injuries at twice the rate of those who wore helmets. According to the study, 15.4 percent of victims without helmets suffered at least one neck injury while 7.4 percent of those wearing helmets did. Helmetless victims also suffered twice as many neck fractures (10.8 percent) compared to those who wore helmets (4.6 percent). Helmetless riders also suffered more ligament and soft tissue damage.

Limited Scope

One study at a single hospital is probably not enough to definitively dispel the claim that motorcycle helmets cause neck injuries, but the study does make a pretty good opposing case. “Our study suggests that wearing a helmet would be a reasonable method to reduce the risk of cervical spine injury in a motorcycle crash,” said Dr. Nathaniel Brooks, the study’s lead author. The study was recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.

Contact Us for Help

If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle crash, contact an experienced Rockford personal injury attorney to explore your options for collecting compensation. Call 815-215-7561 to schedule a free consultation with Mannarino & Brasfield, A Division of Schwartz Injury Law today.





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