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Mountain Biking: The Importance of Wearing a Helmet

Updated on March 16, 2011

Your skull houses your brain and your brain serves a vital function in your body. Without it, you would be pretty useless. Though a person without brain function is able to survive on life support, what kind of life would that be? There is no awareness or interaction with the world around him or her. One would question whether what is the purpose of living in such a state.

Among various various sports-related injuries, it has been shown that bicycle-related injuries accounted for the greatest number of head injuries and hospitalised head injuries.  “About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and 27,000 have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.”  Statistics also showed that “head injuries accounted for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycling injuries.”

Cycling is evidently a sport that requires protective head gear.  Since bicycle helmets protect our heads and can help to prevent injuries that may result in serious damage to the brain, you would think this is reason enough to encourage all bike riders to wear helmets. Unfortunately, it isn't the case. There are still far too many bikers that ride without helmets. If any form of biking warrants the use of a helmet, then surely mountain biking, which is one of the more dangerous forms of biking, should make helmets mandatory.

How do bicycle helmets protect the head? They provide protection to the skull during a head impact by helping to slow the deceleration of the head upon impact. The helmet absorbs kinetic energy through its internal layer of crushable foam.

It has been argued that wearing a helmet will not guarantee the prevention of head injuries due to cycling. While that is true, the statistics still show that helmet wearers involved in bike accidents involving the head are less likely to be killed or be seriously or permanently injured compared to non-helmet wearers. The statistics show that "non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders.” It has also been shown that “bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent." It is undeniable that "bicycle helmets offer substantial protection to the forehead and midface."

Additionally, “it is estimated that 75 percent of bicycle-related fatalities among children could be prevented with a bicycle helmet,” and the “universal use of bicycle helmets by children ages 4 to 15 could prevent between 135 and 155 deaths, between 39,000 and 45,000 head injuries, and between 18,000 and 55,000 scalp and face injuries annually.”

There is another study from Western Australia that also concurred that increased helmet usage reduced the incidence and severity of head injuries in Australia. The hospitals surveyed reported that the increase use of helmets over time is linked to a reduction of the number of closed head injuries by half. Not only were there a reduction in head injuries but the severity of head injuries had decreased resulting in shorter hospital stays.

Not only are do helmets potentially help to reduce the severity of the head injury and/or prevent death, they are also a much cheaper option compared to the health care costs involved in hospitalisation due to head injuries resulting from a cycling accident. Cycling injuries caused by lack of helmet use estimate some $81 million a year in direct health care costs, while “indirect costs of cyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $2.3 billion each year.” 

It has been estimated that “every dollar spent on a bike helmet saves society $30 in direct medical costs and other costs to society.”  Additionally, “if 85 percent of all child cyclists wore bicycle helmets in one year, the lifetime medical cost savings could total between $109 million and $142 million.”

Given the enormous savings on health care costs, the potential of saving your life and reducing the severity of a potential head injury, doesn't that warrant the use of a helmet during cycling, particularly the sport of mountain biking?

Statistics have been taken from the Bicycle Helmet Statistics Institute.


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    • figur8 profile image

      figur8 8 years ago

      So far no arguments on statistics but I do agree with you on the helmet part. I used to ride a bit, but nothing extreme. Even then I would always wear a helmet. I also used to rock climb - and I would wear a helmet - despite the fact that most people don't bother.

      Sure, one can argue against the statistics on wearing a helmet. Personally, I value my brain. I've only got one and I certainly don't want to take any chances with it.

      I don't know what sort of arguments these people put up against the statistics, but I don't think we can escape the fact that helmets do save lives and they do reduce the severity of the head injury.

    • wanderingpops profile image

      wanderingpops 8 years ago

      I very much support wearing a helmet when biking anywhere. I posted an article recently, actually in two parts because it was so long, on bike helmet safety and came under scrutiny by some folks that really argued the statistics. Did you get any similar argument? Are you a mountain biker? I have had several crashes that I am sure the outcome would not have been as positive had I not been wearing a helmet. I've ripped visors off and cracked shells in good endo's in the rocks. I am sure my helmet has save me severe injury a couple times.

      Here is a link to that article if you're interestd: