A new study found motorcyclists are less than half as likely to break a nose or dent a jaw when wearing helmets. Citing a rise in the number of motorcycles on the road and a rise in the number of motorcycle-related collisions, the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study of the relationship between helmet use and facial injuries following traffic collisions.
The study, led by Dr. Joseph Cromptom and published in the Archives of Surgery, examined the records of over 46,000 bikers sent to hospitals nationwide following collisions between 2002 and 2005. 77% of bikers were wearing helmets at the time of the crash. Overall, approximately 1,700 bikers suffered nose injuries, 2,300 had eye injuries and 800 busted their jawbones. Another 1,400 had facial bruises following the collision. However, helmeted riders were less likely to sustain these injuries and were 60% less likely to suffer any serious face-related injury compared to helmet-free riders,
Information regarding the type of helmets worn was not available, so the researchers could not determine whether the presence of a face shield reduced the risk of injury. Dr. Peter Layde, co-director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, who was not involved in the UCLA study, said face shields likely play some role in preventing injury, but helmets can also absorb blows to the side of the head and prevent fractures there from extending to the face.
Despite numerous studies demonstrating the safety benefits of motorcycle helmets, the debate whether state governments should require motorcyclists to wear helmets continues. The number of states with mandatory helmet laws has actually decreased in the last few decades, due to lobbying from the motorcycle community.
Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. have mandatory helmet laws for all riders, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Twenty-eight states only require some bikers – such as those under 21 or under 18 – to wear a helmet. Three states, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire, have no motorcycle helmet laws.
“I think [the UCLA study] certainly supports the idea that there should be mandatory helmet laws,” Crompton, who rides a motorcycle, told Reuters Health.