Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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Wear Your Helmet!

The weather is finally warming up here in Minnesota and now that the ice is off the road I started riding my bike to work this week.   That having been said, I want to be a nag today and encourage everyone to wear a helmet when either riding a bike or motorcycle.


Motorcycles: Just the Facts

Here is a quick summary of 2010 motorcycle fatality data from the Centers for Disease Control:


“In 2010, the 4,502 motorcyclists (operators and passengers) killed in motorcycle crashes made up 14% of all road traffic deaths, yet motorcycles accounted for <1% of all vehicle miles traveled . Helmet use consistently has been shown to reduce motorcycle crash–related injuries and deaths, and the most effective strategy to increase helmet use is enactment of universal helmet laws. Universal helmet laws require all motorcyclists to wear helmets whenever they ride. To examine the association between states’ motorcycle helmet laws and helmet use or nonuse among fatally injured motorcyclists, CDC analyzed 2008–2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a census of fatal traffic crashes in the United States. Additionally, economic cost data from NHTSA were obtained to compare the costs saved as a result of helmet use, by type of state motorcycle helmet law. The findings indicated that, on average, 12% of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing helmets in states with universal helmet laws, compared with 64% in partial helmet law states (laws that only required specific groups, usually young riders, to wear helmets) and 79% in states without a helmet law. Additionally, in 2010, economic costs saved from helmet use by society in states with a universal helmet law were, on average, $725 per registered motorcycle, nearly four times greater than in states without such a law ($198).”


Additionally, helmets reduce the risk of death from a motorcycle accident by about 40%, and head injury by about 70%.

Bike Helmets

There is also solid evidence that bike helmets prevent head injuries, and here is one paper from France.  However, there is some controversy about whether mandatory bike helmet laws discourage bike riding and the health benefits that flow from it.  The topic is complex and depends on a number of factors related to the safety of riding a bike vs. other public health benefits.   However, the guidelines are pretty clear and bike helmets are a good idea and prevent head injuries.



Enjoy the warm weather and wear a helmet when you are on something with two wheels.   Make sure you kids are wearing them too!




2 Responses to “Wear Your Helmet!”

  1. April 4th, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Barbara Beck says:

    It might be helpful to review how bicycle helmets should fit – especially on kids. I often see families wearing helmets but the kids’ helmets are tilted onto the backs of their heads, thus providing no protection to the face.

  2. April 4th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Michael Joyner, M.D. says:

    Great point Barbara…… this is a great video showing the proper fit of a bike helmet.

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