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How Well Do Bicycle Helmets Protect against Catastrophic Brain Injuries?

Although Nebraska has a universal bicycle helmet law, bicyclists can often be seen on Omaha streets without their helmets. Some riders don't understand the importance of wearing a helmet, while others believe that a helmet cannot possibly help them in a crash.

How well do bicycle helmets help riders avoid serious traumatic brain injuries and head injuries in a crash? Two studies of bicycle helmet effectiveness may provide some clues.

A 1989 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared 235 patients who needed emergency room care for head injuries after a bicycle crash with 433 patients who needed emergency room care for non-head injuries after a bicycle crash. The researchers found that only seven percent of the patients with head injuries were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, compared to 24 percent of the patients who did not have head injuries. Among the patients with severe brain injuries, only 4 percent had been wearing a helmet. Based on these numbers, researchers concluded that helmets reduce the risk of catastrophic head injury by up to 88 percent.

A study in Accident Analysis and Prevention in 2006, however, questioned whether helmets are this effective in all crashes. In this study, researchers took care to distinguish between accidents in which the blow was delivered directly and accidents in which the head was rotating at the time of the blow. They noted that while helmets seemed to protect against direct force, they are less useful protecting against rotational force.

At Cullan & Cullan LLC, our experienced Omaha personal injury attorneys can help you fight for the compensation you deserve after a serious crash. Contact us today to learn more.


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