Motorcycles+Kids=Risk of Brain Injury; Helmet Laws Help

Filed under: In The News, Health & Safety: Tweens, Health & Safety: Teens

motorcycle picture

Study shows that helmet laws are not universal. Credit: Corbis




Wear a helmet.

It seems like obvious advice, particularly if the wheels in question are of the motorized variety. But a duet of new studies shows that motorcycle accidents are a significant source of traumatic brain injuries in adolescents and that they are more likely to wear helmets if the laws are more stringent.

In the first study -- both of which are in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics -- researchers looked at a database of kids who were hospitalized in 38 states in 2006. They found that motorcycle-related crashes were the reason that 3 percent of youth between the ages of 12 and 20 were hospitalized that year, and that out of more than 5,600 motorcycle-related hospital stays, about a third of them were patients with traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the article says. Youth with TBIs were 10 times more likely to die in the hospital than patients without brain injury, and nearly a quarter of them had long-term disabilities.

Given that, helmet wear should be a no-brainer, right? Apparently not for adolescents. The second study compared the helmet laws and TBI injuries of different states, 17 of which had universal helmet laws, six of which required helmets for anyone under 21, and 12 of which mandated helmets for minors, according to the article. Although youth are required to wear helmets in all those states, researchers found that in states with under-21 helmet laws the rate of motorcycle-related TBI among youth was 38 percent higher than in states with universal helmet laws. The only way to keep young people using helmets is to adopt universal helmet laws, the authors conclude.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.