Emergency physicians are urging the public to put helmets on as outdoor activities increase and temperatures warm up. May is motorcycle safety month and a prime opportunity to remind the public about the importance of safety helmets. Helmets save lives and reduce the risk of brain injury, the nation's emergency physicians said today. They see firsthand the tragic consequences of people who don't wear them.
"People are riding bicycles, motorcycles and ATVs more often at this time of year," said Dr. Angela Gardner of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Now is the time to get in the habit of wearing a certified safety helmet, because it only takes is one tragic crash to end your life or cause serious injuries to your brain that can alter your life forever."
Helmet use is the best way to reduce bicycle head injuries and fatalities from crashes. More than 300,000 children are treated in emergency departments with bike injuries every year and nearly two-thirds (70 percent) were because of head injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet according the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Facts about Bicycle Helmet Use:
- Bicycle helmets are nearly 90 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, according to NHTSA.
- Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4 to 15 would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries.
- About 540,000 bicyclists seek emergency care with injuries each year. Of those, 67,000 have head injuries and 27,000 of them have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.
ACEP recommends that bicycle riders wear helmets that meet or exceed the safety standards developed by the Consumer Product Safety Administration. A proper bike helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and not rock forward and backward or side to side. Helmet straps must be buckled snugly, but not too tightly. Helmets are important for bicyclists of all ages because older riders represent more than three-quarters of bicycle deaths.
Motorcycle helmets are effective as well. "Helmet use is the single most important factor in people surviving motorcycle crashes," said Dr. Gardner. "They reduce the risk of head, brain, and facial injury among motorcyclists of all ages and crash severities."
Facts about Motorcycle Helmet Use:
- NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of more than 1,800 motorcyclists in 2008.
- An additional 800 lives could have been saved if all of those motorcyclists had worn helmets.
- Motorists without helmets are 40 percent more likely to die from a head injury.
In addition, Dr. Gardner said helmet use isn't restricted to just bikes or motorcycles.
"People should be wearing helmets when roller skating, rollerblading, skateboarding or playing any type of hard-hitting contact sports."
For more information on helmet safety or any other health related topic, please go to www.EmergencyCareForYou.org. ACEP and MedicAlert Foundation are partnering to promote EmergencyCareForYou.org and to educate the public about medical emergencies.
MedicAlert Foundation pioneered the first medical identification and emergency medical information service in 1956 to provide people with a simple but effective method for communicating their medical conditions. Since the organization's founding, MedicAlert Foundation has provided services and products that help to protect and save lives for its 4 million members worldwide. For more than 50 years, the nonprofit foundation has relayed vital medical information on behalf of its members to emergency responders so they receive faster and safer treatment. MedicAlert IDs alert emergency personnel to a member's primary health conditions. In addition to its 24-¬hour emergency response service, MedicAlert Foundation also provides family and caregiver notification so that members can be reunited with their loved ones. For more information, visit www.medicalert.org.
ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.