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Old 08-01-09, 11:04 PM   #1
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Does Wearing A Helmet Save Lives.

I personally always wear a helmet when riding. Dates back to motorcycling days so I feel naked on two wheels without one.

None the less I found the Wikipedia article on bicycle helmets interesting and it raised some questions in my mind about how effective they actually are. Read the whole thing yourself and see what you think. It seems to me to be even handed but still raise some interesting questions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet
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Last edited by tatfiend; 08-02-09 at 11:57 AM. Reason: typo correction
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Old 08-01-09, 11:48 PM   #2
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It kept me on my bike after I came too close to an overhead beam. That was close enough for me to say that yes, my helmet saved me from injury.
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Old 08-01-09, 11:55 PM   #3
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Are you asking the question, or just trying to justify your own position?

Only fools quote Wikipedia.

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Old 08-02-09, 06:29 AM   #4
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...Only fools quote Wikipedia.
The reliability of Wikipedia, compared to both other encyclopedias and more specialized sources, is often assessed in several ways, including statistically, by comparative review, by analysis of the historical patterns, and by strengths and weaknesses inherent in the Wikipedia process.

Because Wikipedia is open to collaborative editing and can be edited anonymously, assessments of its reliability usually include examinations of how quickly false or misleading information is removed. An early study conducted by IBM researchers in 2003 (not long after Wikipedia started in 2001, see History of Wikipedia) found that "vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly--so quickly that most users will never see its effects"[1] and concluded that Wikipedia had "surprisingly effective self-healing capabilities."[2]

Studies suggest that Wikipedia's reliability has improved in recent years, and it is increasingly used as a tertiary source.

An investigation by Nature magazine in 2005 suggested that for scientific articles Wikipedia came close to the level of accuracy of Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of "serious errors."[3] However, the accuracy and validity of Nature's research has been disputed by Encyclopædia Britannica.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia
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Old 08-02-09, 06:35 AM   #5
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If you fall and hit your head, obviously wearing a helmet can decrease your risk of head injury. Helmets do not, however, have any impact on your chances of falling, getting hit or having any other accident that might cause a head injury. It's really that simple.

Oh yeah, some say that wearing a helmet makes you look like a real cyclist. I won't even bother to comment on that bit of horsepucky.
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Old 08-02-09, 06:37 AM   #6
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Back to the original question. My analysis is strictly personal observation, not statistical. When I fell, I broke off a 4" chunk of my helmet instead of my head. It answers the question for me.
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Old 08-02-09, 06:37 AM   #7
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... Read the whole thing yourself and see what you think...
trouble is, too many people have preconceived ideas and can't see that there are 2 sides to every story.

If you have an open mind, some of the information may open your eyes. The promotion of helmets over the last 20 years has only given one point of view and it's been repeated so often, most people don't even think about it, they just assume that's just the way it is. The article gives more information (with reliable data) and explores a deeper look at the issue.

I happened upon most of the information listed in the article before I even knew of Wikipedia. When I read it, I thought that's exactly what I would have written, if I were to sum up what I had learned thus far.
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Old 08-02-09, 06:46 AM   #8
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Back to the original question. My analysis is strictly personal observation, not statistical. When I fell, I broke off a 4" chunk of my helmet instead of my head. It answers the question for me.
Actually, good point. Maybe there could be a clarification here. The title (a question) is, does wearing a helmet save lives, and the OP asks we read the wiki article and see what we think.

I'm guessing what's being asked is, based on the wiki article, does a helmet save lives, not based on personal observation, does a helmet save lives.
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Old 08-02-09, 06:53 AM   #9
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That's like saying the Bible is true because the Bible says it's true.

I think the basic argument is this:

For an individual, the person is better off to wear a helmet. It won't prevent all injuries but it will prevent more than it causes.

For the population, many people won't ride a bike if helmet use was mandatory, and various statistics have been amassed supporting one side or the other with regard to health benefits of cycling in general would offset the number of lives saved by helmets in various scenarios. That debate is like trying to achieve peace in the Middle East.
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Old 08-02-09, 07:04 AM   #10
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That's like saying the Bible is true because the Bible says it's true...
Hence, the winki face (and you've gotta love the validity of Nature's research being disputed by Encyclopædia Britannica!)

Still, there are 100 reference pages listed if you want to check the validity of the article and it's good to get different perspectives, don't you think?

109 references listed on the helmet page.
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Old 08-02-09, 07:15 AM   #11
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That's like saying the Bible is true because the Bible says it's true.
Not quite. Wiki information is scrutinized and corrected by millions of people. I have yet to read anything on wiki that caused me to question the validity of the information given. The bible on the other hand...
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Old 08-02-09, 07:23 AM   #12
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This doesn't answer the question, sorry, but I'm gonna throw it out there anyway;

Helmets make riding more comfortable. They keep the sun off your head and, with a decent bill, out of your eyes. Add to that the possibility of avoiding head injury and it's a done deal for me.

A win-win situation.

But to actually answer the question, doohickie did it quite well. For an individual there seems little doubt. For a large population, it's murky.
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Old 08-02-09, 08:12 AM   #13
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Isn't the question about what wiki presents and not the question based on a personal stance?

Even if you have a problem with wiki, I'm not sure if there's a problem with the basic concepts presented by wiki, Criticism of current standards; new designs, if cycling risky enough to require helmets, Are helmets useful, desirable and undesirable effects of their use, looking at Time-trend analyses and case-control studies. looking at supporters and opponents of their use as well as legislation and culture surrounding them.

Looks like a window into seeing what a lot of people who have spend a lot of energy looking into the issue have seen
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Old 08-02-09, 08:12 AM   #14
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But to actually answer the question, doohickie did it quite well. For an individual there seems little doubt. For a large population, it's murky.
For an individual a helmet may increase the chance of rotational injuries. It may also increase the chance of the head being jolted. So it's murky for an individual too. There is no clear evidence one way or another for either individuals or populations. The population data is probably more reliable though and suggests that helmets provide little advantage.

The other questions (about the effects of widespread helmet use and their effect on individuals in the population) are separate.

So, the whole thing is complete unclear and anyone expressing certainty about it is either smokin' or blowin' smoke. If you like them then feel good about wearing it. If you don't then enjoy yourself without it. It's no one else's business.
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Old 08-02-09, 08:35 AM   #15
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Yes, helmets save lives. How many I do not know.

Does a helmet save more lives then learning how to ride your bike safely? Again, I do not know but suspect not.

Last edited by gcottay; 08-02-09 at 10:23 AM. Reason: The Human Car's post #19 below
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Old 08-02-09, 08:36 AM   #16
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It CAN save a life or protect from serious injury but every situation is different and some accidents are so violent the helmet more than likely not help too much.

Call me Captain Obvious.

I wear one. Although as a kid growing up no one wore helmets. NO one. I took my fair share of falls and crashes too. jumping over creeks, flying up ramps, etc.

I'm easier to break today! Hell I'm 51 now.
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Old 08-02-09, 09:25 AM   #17
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Yes, helmets save lives. How many I do not know.
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Originally Posted by Tommyr View Post
It CAN save a life or protect from serious injury...
from the article:

Are helmets useful? Desirable effects of helmet use

No randomized controlled trials have been done on the subject. The evidence comes from two main types of observational study. Most of the literature that mentions helmets refers back to a small number of these studies, rather than itself providing primary evidence. Overall, according to CTC, the UK's national cyclists organisation,

"the evidence currently available is complex and full of contradictions, providing at least as much support for those who are sceptical as for those who swear by them."
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Old 08-02-09, 09:37 AM   #18
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from the article:

Are helmets useful? Desirable effects of helmet use

No randomized controlled trials have been done on the subject. The evidence comes from two main types of observational study. Most of the literature that mentions helmets refers back to a small number of these studies, rather than itself providing primary evidence. Overall, according to CTC, the UK's national cyclists organisation,

"the evidence currently available is complex and full of contradictions, providing at least as much support for those who are sceptical as for those who swear by them."

So they should get 2 people, one wearing a helmet and one not wearing a helmet and slam their heads against the pavement and see which person has the least injuries? That would be controlled. Right?

I think there are enough real cases available to determine that an injured person wearing a helmet could have died or been seriously injured if they were NOT wearing one. This isn't rocket science.
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Old 08-02-09, 09:51 AM   #19
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Should you wear a helmet? Yes

Does a helmet save more lives then learning how to ride your bike safely? I really don't think so, at least by my observations of the number of wrong way road and sidewalk cyclists.
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Old 08-02-09, 10:22 AM   #20
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So they should get 2 people, one wearing a helmet and one not wearing a helmet and slam their heads against the pavement and see which person has the least injuries? That would be controlled. Right?

I think there are enough real cases available to determine that an injured person wearing a helmet could have died or been seriously injured if they were NOT wearing one. This isn't rocket science.
No but AFAIK there haven't been any comprehensive studies, nor real world testing. Any reportable statistic is suspect unless they are all being reported and being reported using the same criteria. The bulk of the evidence on both sides of the argument is pretty much anecdotal and not much more than that, most of the so called studies that I have read are based on flawed research and flimsy evidence. Can helmets prevent injuries? Absolutely! Will they prevent all injuries Absolutely not! Until they have comprehensive testing of helmets, like they have with seat belts and other safety gear, they have no rhyme or reason to make them compulsory, they only thing they have is fear mongering.

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Old 08-02-09, 11:00 AM   #21
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So they should get 2 people, one wearing a helmet and one not wearing a helmet and slam their heads against the pavement and see which person has the least injuries? That would be controlled. Right?

I think there are enough real cases available to determine that an injured person wearing a helmet could have died or been seriously injured if they were NOT wearing one. This isn't rocket science.
not that it matters (and in fact it really doesn't because it only involves anecdotal information) but I have had 2 people describe to me a fall that happened to each that sounded very much like the falls were almost entirely equal except one of the persons had a helmet on and one didn't. Both ended up with the same grade of concussion and one had a broken helmet and one had an extra abrasion on the forehead.

The only difference between the two was one had an abraision and one was out $80, but that's not what thios thread is about is it? It's about what wikipedia has presented and they presented CTC's position that "the evidence currently available is complex and full of contradictions, providing at least as much support for those who are sceptical as for those who swear by them." but you already knew about that and wanted to go off topic, right?
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Old 08-02-09, 12:56 PM   #22
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...AFAIK there haven't been any comprehensive studies, nor real world testing. Any reportable statistic is suspect unless they are all being reported and being reported using the same criteria...
off topic but related to your point,

from the helmets cramp my style thread,


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not necessarily. I've been a ski patroller for six years and I've seen my share of head injuries with and without helmets.

There's little evidence to show that helmets help in the worst crashes. I'm no longer convinced helmets save lives for the following reasons.

There have been two very compelling and well received papers in the ski industry in the last three years, one, the Sugarbush Whitepaper, and the other out of Sweden (I don't recall the name). They also found that skiers with helmets were far more likely to be involved in lethal wrecks, persumeably due to the superman factor. I know I feel naked and ski more cautiously without my ski helmet.

In the former case, all injuries involving care in the US with National Ski Patrol are documented in the exact same manner on every ski slope across the country. Bikes don't have that. This yields a much stronger data set. The paper came to the conclusion that ski helmets don't offer any assistance in the types of crashes that kill skiers and they offer minimal protection for things like slip and fall concussions. Ski wrecks and cycling wrecks are very similar as are the helmets, as are the speeds, the things they impact, etc.

IMHO, the only thing a bike helmet will help with are superficial injuries and possibly penetrating injuries where you have a high force applied over a small surface area, like a skull impacting the edge of a curb. The evidence that cycling helmets save lives is largely anecdotal and when people see a damaged piece of styrofoam they assume the same would have happened to their skull.

I can tell you that despite the above, ski resorts rent helmets now on a huge percent of beginner packages because of liability concerns as well as the huge increase in revenue streams. And beginners will automatically think skiing is dangerous and opt for the helmet, even though the likelihood of head injury while skiing is absurdly low. Helmets are marketed and are, imo a self perpetuating and self-reinforcing problem.
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Old 08-02-09, 01:02 PM   #23
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As noted in my original post I do wear a helmet personally. I found it interesting though that there is apparently so little good evidence that they truly save many lives and that one of the biggest factors for rider safety seems to be the number or density of riders in an area, as for example in Holland and Denmark as noted in the article. Probably a matter of driver awareness as they are used to looking for bicyclists. Could also be related to the fact that most European commuter/shopping riders tend to ride at lower speeds, at least from my observations when I visited there many years ago.

As for head abrasions and such I would presume that a helmet helps in which case maybe we should go to BMX/Downhill full face helmets, the ones that look like a motorcycle dirt rider's helmet. Heavier and hotter however but I might pick one up for winter use.

I remember working with a bike rider years ago who did commute while wearing a full face motorcycle helmet after being hit by a car while riding. That was pre ventilated MX helmets being available but he said he would rather be hot than dead
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Old 08-02-09, 01:02 PM   #24
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I suspect that helmets save a few lives by their use. Mostly children.

But I suspect many, many, many more cycling deaths are averted because people who do not want to wear helmets simply give up biking.
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Old 08-02-09, 03:29 PM   #25
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If you are below the age of 30, you can get away with reflexes and superior healing ability. After 40 I suggest a helmet, you are much more likely to get into an accident a 20 yr old would have swerved around and missed.

Adding weight to your head can make some injuries much worse.
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