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  1. #1
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Bad information(?) for a good(?) cause? Helmet issues.

    I don't really want to fan fire of the helmet flame war, but I'm guessing that's where this will end up. And maybe this belongs added on to the helmet thread, so if the mods thought that was appropriate (or if they wanted to delete it altogether), that'd be fine.

    I do think that in the above, excruciatingly long Helmet thread, there is actually some good information about helmet advocacy and where it falls, priority-wise with safety. What seems to be lacking is any hard statistics to back up anyone's views. There's one oft-cited, oft-refuted study countered by another oft-cited, oft-refuted study. So I was surprised when this showed up in my campuses "Bike News"

    Did you know that...

    Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. They have also been shown to offer substantial protection to the forehead and midface.

    A majority of the fatal accidents could have been prevented by using helmets.

    The use of biclycle[sic] helmets is inversely related to age of the bicyclist, meaning as the bicyclist's age increases chances that he/she wears a helmet decreases!!!

    REMEMBER - it never hurts to emphasize the importance of helmets while biking.
    Does anyone know where they are pulling their statistics from? This subject is so hotly debated, that it's hard to imagine that there's any study that has such clear-cut results. Now I don't want to be labeled as a "helmets are bad" person, because I'm not. I usually (although admittedly not always) wear a helmet, and while I have doubts that the statistics are as straight-forward as this paper seems to state them, I do think you are probably safer with a helmet than without one. But I guess I'm finally seeing the point of people who say that by over-emphasizing helmets, you may be scaring away potential cyclists, or at least giving the impression that you're engaging in a high-risk activity. I read the above section in the paper and thought, "Wow, they want you to think that if you don't wear a helmet, you'll end up brain damaged or dead." Then they say, "it never hurts to emphasize the importance of helmets while biking." I would agree, but I'm not sure that's what they're doing. I think they're throwing out some out-of-context numbers in an effort to scare people.

    I think a helmet is a good idea, but not wearing one is far from the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike. I would much rather see people advocating safe cycling practices in general, and I don't think it's good cycling advocacy to make it sound like a high-risk sport (although I recognize that there are high-risk cycling activities, but I don't think that represents cycling in general). I'd much rather see them say, "Cycling, if done responsibly, can be safe and healthy, and can be even safer if you wear a helmet." But don't try and scare me off my bike or keep on edge waiting for the next potentially fatal accident to happen.

    But that's just my opinion. What do you all think?

  2. #2
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    My guess is that the 88% number is a conditional number...as in: Given that an accident involving a head collision has occured, Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury ...

    The typical argument against helmets is that other factors can be used to reduce the frequency of accidents more effectively than a helmet can reduce the severity of one, after it happens.

    Personally, I try to incoproate both, because I think there's a reasonable chance I'll flub something and fall over and crack my helmeted head on the ground. I also will make my children wear helmets. However, I will not lecture other adults, as it's their decision to make.

  3. #3
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    I believe where helmets help the most are accidents where you can get road rash or being de-scaped in the head. If you get run over by a truck, I don't think a helmet will help you much. When I had a nasty accident vs a dog a few years ago, my helmet saved my head from being a bloody mess. I would have survived without a helmet in that wreck, but it saved me probably some stitches.

    They do offer some protection, therefore I do believe in wearing a helmet and I always wear mine. But I also believe it's a choice for people to make for themselves rather to use one for not and I won't condemn anyone for not wearing one.

  4. #4
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpsblake View Post
    They do offer some protection, therefore I do believe in wearing a helmet and I always wear mine. But I also believe it's a choice for people to make for themselves rather to use one for not and I won't condemn anyone for not wearing one.
    Exactly why I won't condemn anyone for wearing one.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpsblake View Post
    I believe where helmets help the most are accidents where you can get road rash or being de-scaped in the head. If you get run over by a truck, I don't think a helmet will help you much. When I had a nasty accident vs a dog a few years ago, my helmet saved my head from being a bloody mess. I would have survived without a helmet in that wreck, but it saved me probably some stitches.
    I can see that, and I agree. I'm not trying to create another helmets-good/helmets-bad thread. More of an information-good/information-bad thread. You say you don't think helmets are much use in serious accidents, but the information I quoted said, "A majority of the fatal accidents could have been prevented by using helmets." Now we can state the obvious, and nitpick over the fact that helmets do absolutely nothing to prevent accidents, but I think we can assume that they meant that helmets prevent fatalities. And maybe they do. I'm not saying they don't, but I am saying that I'm not aware of any study that shows that more than 50% of cycling-related fatalities could have been prevented with a helmet. Of course they don't say "cycling" in there, either. I'm just assuming.

    And I'm not saying for a fact that I know there information is bad. It just doesn't jibe with other things I've heard, and I'm curious if anyone can find evidence that supports their claims, and, if not, is it irresponsible to misrepresent the facts if your goal is to encourage helmet use?

  6. #6
    cyclocommuter hairyman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I don't really want to fan fire of the helmet flame war, but I'm guessing that's where this will end up. And maybe this belongs added on to the helmet thread, so if the mods thought that was appropriate (or if they wanted to delete it altogether), that'd be fine.

    I do think that in the above, excruciatingly long Helmet thread, there is actually some good information about helmet advocacy and where it falls, priority-wise with safety. What seems to be lacking is any hard statistics to back up anyone's views. There's one oft-cited, oft-refuted study countered by another oft-cited, oft-refuted study. So I was surprised when this showed up in my campuses "Bike News"

    Did you know that...
    Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. They have also been shown to offer substantial protection to the forehead and midface.
    A majority of the fatal accidents could have been prevented by using helmets.
    The use of biclycle[sic] helmets is inversely related to age of the bicyclist, meaning as the bicyclist's age increases chances that he/she wears a helmet decreases!!!
    REMEMBER - it never hurts to emphasize the importance of helmets while biking.



    Does anyone know where they are pulling their statistics from? This subject is so hotly debated, that it's hard to imagine that there's any study that has such clear-cut results. Now I don't want to be labeled as a "helmets are bad" person, because I'm not. I usually (although admittedly not always) wear a helmet, and while I have doubts that the statistics are as straight-forward as this paper seems to state them, I do think you are probably safer with a helmet than without one. But I guess I'm finally seeing the point of people who say that by over-emphasizing helmets, you may be scaring away potential cyclists, or at least giving the impression that you're engaging in a high-risk activity. I read the above section in the paper and thought, "Wow, they want you to think that if you don't wear a helmet, you'll end up brain damaged or dead." Then they say, "it never hurts to emphasize the importance of helmets while biking." I would agree, but I'm not sure that's what they're doing. I think they're throwing out some out-of-context numbers in an effort to scare people.

    I think a helmet is a good idea, but not wearing one is far from the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike. I would much rather see people advocating safe cycling practices in general, and I don't think it's good cycling advocacy to make it sound like a high-risk sport (although I recognize that there are high-risk cycling activities, but I don't think that represents cycling in general). I'd much rather see them say, "Cycling, if done responsibly, can be safe and healthy, and can be even safer if you wear a helmet." But don't try and scare me off my bike or keep on edge waiting for the next potentially fatal accident to happen.

    But that's just my opinion. What do you all think?

    Can someone please tell me how a helmet can prevent an accident?

  7. #7
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairyman View Post
    Can someone please tell me how a helmet can prevent an accident?
    It was sloppy usage...its clear that they mean they could have prevented the accident from being fatal.

  8. #8
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    The big problem is when bicycle "safety" advice begins and ends with wearing a helmet. There is more to it then just that.
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  9. #9
    GNU Cyclist
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    Does anyone know where they are pulling their statistics from? This subject is so hotly debated, that it's hard to imagine that there's any study that has such clear-cut results.
    Really you should be asking /them/ what is the source of their statistic. The most likely one though is the original Thompson, Rivara, Thompson study which derived a figure, which is quoted by many careless government agencies, of circa 85%. That original Thompson et al 1989 study is fairly widely disparaged

    http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1068.html

    and based on some of the criticisms Thompson et al conducted a follow up study which resulted in them revising their figure downwards substantially.

    They looked at two populations of children. One population showed high head injuries, the other "control" showed lower rates of head injuries. The problem was that the first population consisted of children playing mainly without parental supervision in a street setting whereas the "control" consisted of parentally-supervised children mainly riding away from traffic. As the first group tended not to wear helmets while the second did Thompson et al made the unsupportable conclusion that helmets would prevent 85 to 88% of head injuries.

  10. #10
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    I don't think there are many helmets are bad people.

    I think some people who think helmets are good think that others who think helmets are not as good as the helmets are good people do, assume that those helmets are not as good people think that - helmets are bad

    the real problem is bad information is bad.

  11. #11
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    I just get pissed because:
    1. People have an aversion to wearing a helmet, and when you're trying to get people on the road, that extra hurdle cuts your bicycling numbers significantly. A lot of people are barely convinced that they can ride a bike when they start, and adding a crash helmet pulls them toward the side of "screw this, where's my car keys'. The reduction in safety caused by less cyclists on the road is much greater than the increase in safety brought about by the helmets.
    2. Helmet advocates, quite frankly, say a lot of ridiculous things. All the helmet advocates seem unable to do anything without falling down and breaking their helmet on something. 'Ride riskily, don't listen and watch for other vehicles, it doesn't matter, I have a helmet, i'm safe!' My father was complaining about this yesterday in fact; he was complaining about a certain parent in his area who would put a large crash helmet on their four year old son and send him out to play in the middle of traffic. One helmet advocacy campaign in Melbourne pushed for the need for helmets by showing X-rays of broken arms and legs, with statistics for how many broken arms kids were getting annually. What this had to do with HELMETS is a mystery to me.

    Wearing a helmet DOES NOT MAKE YOU SAFE.
    Wearing a helmet, by anecdotal evidence alone, would seem to make you a hell of a lot more likely to get in an accident.
    Statistically, we should probably require helmets for pedestrians if we require them for bicycles, because they get more head injuries. Auto drivers too; head injuries are NOT a unique hazard to bicycling.
    Forcing other people to wear helmets means you have less bicycles in the road and more angry cagers - which makes you less safe.
    Forcing helmets is the stumbling block which is stopping public access bikes from spreading to Canada or Australia - both places want to offer rental bike stalls to encourage more green transportation, then realized they can't enforce helmets on them, so guess they need more taxis instead.

    Go ahead and wear a helmet. It's probably not a bad idea. But don't bother taking it off when you go for a walk or get in a car, and for god sake quit trying to force people to wear them or use them as a magic talisman of ultimate safety (He was hit by a car and had his leg crushed! If he had a helmet on this wouldn't have happened!)

  12. #12
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I don't really want to fan fire of the helmet flame war, but I'm guessing that's where this will end up.
    I hope not. the nature of the debate is almost as interesting as the debate itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I do think that in the above, excruciatingly long Helmet thread, there is actually some good information about helmet advocacy and where it falls, priority-wise with safety. What seems to be lacking is any hard statistics to back up anyone's views.
    There are a lot of statistics and evidence linked on that thread, but it is long and it's easy to miss them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    ...I was surprised when this showed up in my campuses "Bike News"

    Did you know that...

    Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.
    outside of the criticism of this claim, just what is the context of the injury? Even if helmets do prevent 88% of brain injury, just how does it make sense to use them for cycling when there has been shown no greater or even less risk of head injury than other activities? If there are more head injuries from using stairs, ladders, walking or driving, why would we use a helmet only for cycling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    They have also been shown to offer substantial protection to the forehead and midface.
    Think about that for a minute. The claim is that helmets, that do not cover the midface offer substantial protection to the midface

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    A majority of the fatal accidents could have been prevented by using helmets.
    This one is a real whopper. The majority of the fatal accidents happen in collisions with motor vehicles and bicycle helmets are not meant to be useful in these collisions

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    But I guess I'm finally seeing the point of people who say that by over-emphasizing helmets, you may be scaring away potential cyclists, or at least giving the impression that you're engaging in a high-risk activity... I think they're throwing out some out-of-context numbers in an effort to scare people...

    I think a helmet is a good idea, but not wearing one is far from the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike. I would much rather see people advocating safe cycling practices in general, and I don't think it's good cycling advocacy to make it sound like a high-risk sport ...

    But that's just my opinion. What do you all think?
    I would much rather see people advocating safe cycling practices too and also I'd like them to understand, the risk of a potential injury is far out-weighed by the health benefits of riding the bicycle both for cyclists (personal health) and motorists (less damage in collisions and lower health care expendatures because of all those healthy people riding bikes)
    Last edited by closetbiker; 01-17-08 at 10:16 PM.

  13. #13
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    I sat in on one hearing for a bill that would remove the mandatory helmet use for motorcyclists. And one argument that the motorcyclists used was that helmets would be just as useful for motorists in cars in preventing head trauma and death. It was funny as heck listening to the lady from the head trauma group trying to um and ah her way out of why helmets are not required for car drivers when there would be such a huge benefit for motorists to wear helmets.

    It's just sad that we live in a dual standard world.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member roadiespinner's Avatar
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    I have been riding semi-seriously for about 25 years and I consider myself a rider who rides safely. But stuff happens and the only statistic I need to know is that over 25 years I have fallen hard 3 times. And each of those times I would have suffered severe head trauma if I had not been wearing a helmet.
    I drive safely too but I wear my seat belt. Sometimes being "safe" isn't enough.

  15. #15
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadiespinner View Post
    ... But stuff happens and the only statistic I need to know is that over 25 years I have fallen hard 3 times...
    starting to sound a little like Woody Allen there ...

    but seriously, no ones saying wearing a helmet's a bad idea or you shouldn't wear one, just to place it's use in proper context.

  16. #16
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JusticeZero View Post
    Wearing a helmet DOES NOT MAKE YOU SAFE.
    I concur, but I strongly believe it makes me safer under some scenarios, such as the low-speed fall against a curb which killed one of my friends 35 years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by JusticeZero View Post
    Wearing a helmet, by anecdotal evidence alone, would seem to make you a hell of a lot more likely to get in an accident.
    That is true if and only if I practice risk compensation, which is why I advise wearing a helmet but riding as though you just realized you inadvertently left it at home.

    For me, the decision to wear a helmet is a no-brainer. A helmet costs relatively little, causes negligible discomfort or inconvenience, and does not make me feel invincible, so for me there is absolutely no significant downside to wearing one. If it happens to reduce the severity of a concussion in a mishap, the upside is pretty obvious, as is the outcome of my cost-benefit analysis.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    John E is precisely correct.

  18. #18
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    I'm sitting here trying to determine how my helmet could prevent a mid-face injury and I cannot come up with a scenario.

  19. #19
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerlenbach
    John E is precisely correct.
    yup, there is no reason not to wear one, but others should wear them too.

    A friend of mine who used to race bikes (and wore his helmet) fell off a ladder and was hospitalized with a head injury.

    Another friend (who didn't ride a bike, but always talked to me about me riding mine) fell down the stairs last year and died from a head injury.

    It's not just us who are victims of head injuries.
    Last edited by closetbiker; 01-17-08 at 09:39 PM.

  20. #20
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    I'm sitting here trying to determine how my helmet could prevent a mid-face injury and I cannot come up with a scenario.
    OH, OH, Mr. Kotter...I got one! Sitting on the helmet!
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  21. #21
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    A study done at Toronto ERs about 10 years ago, looked at head injuries and other injuries suffered by cyclists to find the effect of helmets. It found that the proportion of cyclists suffering broken collar bones, arms and legs were about the same for cyclists wearing helmets and those not wearing, but significantly fewer head injuries for those wearing helmets. I forget the numbers, but it seemed a well designed study and the results provided a good argument for wearing a helmet.

  22. #22
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    That is true if and only if I practice risk compensation, which is why I advise wearing a helmet but riding as though you just realized you inadvertently left it at home.
    No. What I refer to is the fact that helmet advocates are always talking about their multitude of accidents where the "helmet saved them", far more accidents than the non-helmet advocates have. Helmets reduce your perception by a nontrivial amount, and that can contribute to accidents.

    Furthermore, as noted, while a crash helmet might be a good idea, there is statistically NO reason why one should REMOVE the helmet when you get OFF of the bicycle. Bicycling is NOT an activity which makes you unusually prone to head injuries specifically, and there is no stronger of a case to wear a helmet while biking as there is to ride a helmet while walking or riding in a car. (In fact, you are probably MORE in need of a helmet in a car than you are on a bike.)

  23. #23
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP View Post
    ...but significantly fewer head injuries for those wearing helmets....
    define "injury" and were those injuries any more plentiful for cyclists than for pedestrians?
    Last edited by closetbiker; 01-17-08 at 11:19 PM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffS
    I'm sitting here trying to determine how my helmet could prevent a mid-face injury and I cannot come up with a scenario.
    I'd guess they had the helmet strapped over the face. Probably explains why they can't see what's staring them in the face (and also explains why they seem to crash so often too).
    Last edited by closetbiker; 01-17-08 at 10:20 PM.

  25. #25
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    I got dismissed from a bike safety class, at my son's school, for telling the kiddies the most important safety device is a mechanically sound, well fitting bicycle, then the helmet. A helmet can prevent head injury, but a well fitting and working bicycle can prevent falls and encourage more riding, which means more experience.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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