In the United States, the most common causes of spinal cord injuries are motor vehicle accidents, including both automobile accidents and motorcycle accidents.
After this category, the injury is the result of falls, acts of violence, and sport-related injuries.
Considering the prevalence of vehicle accidents in this devastating injury, it is no wonder that so much research and so many safety innovations have gone into making automobiles safer.
But what about motorcycles? Are there any ways to provide better protections against cervical spine injury among those riding these popular two-wheel vehicles? As it turns out, the answer may already be available: a recent study has shown that the simple act of wearing a motorcycle helmet during a motorcycle crash provides significant protection to the cervical vertebrae.
Wearing a motorcycle helmet was once something that the federal law actively supported, to the point where in the early 1970s nearly all states mandated it.
That changed as states lobbied against financial penalties assessed against them for not having those laws, and the issue was left largely to each individual state. Though most people think wearing motorcycle helmets is common sense, some riders argue against it, saying that it restricts their vision – others argue that wearing a helmet exacerbates the risk of fracturing cervical vertebrae in an accident.
To investigate this claim, researchers from the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison conducted an extensive study that was just published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. The authors, Paul S. Page, MD, Zhikui Wei, MD, PhD, and Nathaniel P. Brooks, MD, have concluded that just as wearing a helmet decreases the incidence and severity of traumatic brain injury during crashes, helmet use offers cervical spine protection to its wearer.
The study examined patient histories of over 1,000 patients who had been injure in motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin over a 5-year period.
Wisconsin law does not require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, and as a result only 30 percent of those brought into the trauma center had been wearing a helmet at the time of their accident, while 70 percent had not used this important protection. While 15.4% of riders who had not been wearing helmets sustained a cervical spine injury, only 7.4% of those who were wearing a helmet suffered a similar result.
This is a marked difference, and a certain indication that the helmets provided protection to the cervical spine. Most important was the fact that the biggest difference in injuries was in the category of cervical spine fractures with more than twice the number of non-helmet wearing riders suffering that injury than of those wearing helmets.
This study should not only be of interest to those who ride motorcycles, but also to bicycle riders and others who engage in sports where there is a likelihood of head-involved injury. Helmet use can protect more than your skull: it may help protect you against the type of cervical spine injury that can lead to debilitating pain.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by an injury involving the cervical spine, our practice in New Jersey can help. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to set up an appointment for a consultation.