Helmets continued... Went to all this effort to write it, but then discussion closed - so here it is:

Regarding this discussion:

Q: >>How would I or anyone know if you did present a paper, researched it or what.

A: Maybe because generally conference proceedings and papers are published and as such the existence of the paper would be much easier to verify than some of the opinion based comments you have put forward??: Comments involving sarcasm and personal attack provide nothing to an argument, and credibility does not necessarily burst forth from claims such as 'christopher reeve would have been killed without a helmet'. Instead of anecdotal evidence based on the experiences of celebrities - i'd rather trust in peer reviewed journals. I can't remember whether it was on sydney cyclist or elsewhere but i have previously seen a literature review on the helmet issues and whether with/without is better in a bad accident certainly isn't clear. It is very difficult to collect data on the effect of helmet wearing versus not in a crash, because there is never really objective crash data (in terms of the physics of the collision), there are too many variables for computer models to work and you can't run controlled experiments! (ethically - ha ha)

There are definitely multiple publications demonstrating that helmets can increase the likelihood of torsional injuries because the shape of the helmet can rotate the head on impact. These torsional injuries tend to result in greater loss of function (or higher chance of death) than a more direct head impact.

I've also seen comments from helmet manufacturing engineers based on in-house testing saying that in the case of a heavy impact there would be basically no difference between wearing a helmet or not as bicycle helmets are not designed to resist extreme impacts. Probably horse-riding helmets are tougher, and motorbike helmets are tougher again, bike helmets are most useful when you don't hit your head very hard.

Furthermore, there are actually very few studies demonstrating the benefits of helmets and none of them have had clear cut outcomes that aren't controversial. Apparently the study used to justify compulsory helmet wearing in australia is of particularly dubious scientific merit.

Having said this I always wear a helmet (in australia). I would always wear a helmet on my road bike anywhere, but i might not wear one for small trips to the shops, etc, given the choice, as i've done when riding hire bikes in europe as a tourist. This is not an attitude based on logic or research, but based on what feels safe to me. Logically i know in some types of crash there is evidence to suggest I'd be better off without a helmet, but having had some accidents I definitely feel better wearing one in a situation where I'm riding quickly, doing fast corners, steep descents or in fast traffic. But in low traffic zones in my local area when i'm just cruising around I'd say the only reason i wear one is to avoid being hassled by police or yobs in cars.

Links containing EVIDENCE for/against:

1. contains links to peer reviewed publications for/against helmets

2. paper with an anti-helmet bias, but makes some good arguments at a societal level that there is a net health benefit of allowing freedom of choice for helmet use. Interestingly car driving and being a pedestrian are more likely to kill you per miles travelled, and that motorcycle riding is insane!

The graph below shows that countries with greater cycling participation have far fewer deaths per kilometre ridden; and that helmet laws are associated with much lower cycling participation - and hence a relatively higher death-rate:

Views: 319

Comment by Bob Moore on January 11, 2009 at 4:52pm
Logically one should wear a helmet on those shorter slower trips, where danger is mostly of a slight bump, since that is where a helmet is most effective. Wearing one going down hill at 80K's or on the freeway isnt likely to be of much use. Even fairly slight bumps can lead to significant damage I believe. Kids should wear helmets because of this.

A few years ago a road safety group at Flinders Uni or one of the SA unis put out a media release calling for car drivers to wear helmets, since they were more or just as likely to have brain damage in a crash as cyclists. Was greeted with howls of derision from the public.
Comment by Luke on January 12, 2009 at 1:04am
Personally I would rather not wear a helmet. On long climbs I chose not to. But generally do and make sure it is an extremely light weight one at that. Australia ha sthe hashest criteria for hellmet approvals in the world and it affects the number of PROs that choose to come here and train during the off season because of it, instead of capatialising on the EUro dollars that could be spentv in Australia by the BIG tea,s coming here for Training camps inthe Summer off season period.
Imagine if SIlence Lotto, Quickstep, Team Columbia, Euskatel Euskadi, Milram, etc cam eto Australia to train in the off season because of the weather and the fsact that their top team mates training partners live here and promote the country OS to the Euro Pros. We could save big dollars on tourism funding becausethe biggest sport in the world trains in Australia over the Euro winter break.
Comment by Doddsy on January 12, 2009 at 12:07pm
Helmets stop people from Cycling. The helmet law being introduced was the worst thing i can remember that ever happened to cycling in Australia.

I was pretty young but i specifically can remember when people stopped riding and started driving to the local supermarket or girlfriends house instead. South Australia was pretty brutal about enforcing the helmet laws and you could no longer just jump on your bike and roll down to the shops. You could no longer just be bored at your mates or Aunties house and take her bike for a spin unless you tried to wedge a helmet that was 2 sizes too small on.

Bike rental programs that other countries are doing successfully seems to barely be happening in Australia.
I remember the Adelaide City Council having a crack at free bike hire but it never took off.

We should recommend Helmets

Make Messengers and Competitive Cyclists wear them.

But Cycling without helmets should not be illegal.
Comment by Davidtcr on January 12, 2009 at 2:42pm
I'm not necessarily pro mandatory helmet laws, but from personal experience I am very pro helmets. In the last ten or so years of riding around Sydney I have had two accidents while commuting to work. Neither accident was my fault, once I was car doored, and the other time I had a car pull out in front of me. In neither incident was I doing anything out of the ordinary, but in both of them I cracked my helmet and am quite convinced that without it I would have suffered severe injuries.

Unfortunately we cannot choose when we are going to have an accident, so for me even if it wasn't mandatory I would still be wearing a helmet all the time.
Comment by Duncan on January 12, 2009 at 3:03pm
I must say, thinking of the stacks I've had on my bike, one involved a very fast (sideways, not forward) front washout on a badly cambered road. I slapped the side of my helmet onto the road _hard_. It cracked, and I walked away from it with nothing more than a bruised hip and ego.

I would not have done that if I was not wearing a helmet.
Comment by naomi on January 12, 2009 at 4:08pm
Wonder why we aren't made to wear helmets skiing then?

Its becoming a more popular choice - but its still a choice.
Comment by Doddsy on January 12, 2009 at 4:33pm
Why don't motorists wear helmets?

They suffer more head injuries than Cyclists and they cause most head injuries to Cyclists.

I don't understand.... Please explain.
Comment by Colin on January 12, 2009 at 6:23pm
The foam in the helmet is designed to compress and therefore absorb some of the energy of the crash. Helmets are not designed to crack - a cracked helmet indicated that the helmet failed. It tells us nothing about whether it absorbed any impact. Bike helmets are flimsy things - they crack very easily. Heads are much stronger.

Helmets do seem useful for preventing road rash to the head. They don't absorb much energy though.
Comment by Adam on January 12, 2009 at 7:25pm
I could throw my two bobs into this discussion by quoting this and quoting that but I don't feel the need to. I wear a helmet, I don't care if others choose not too - law or no law. I'm sure I could come up with some creative stats to show a correlation between the demise of the ice caps, helmet usage and the incidence of tuberculosis. Just ride.
Comment by Adam on January 13, 2009 at 7:45am
I think this "discussion" on helmet laws seems to me to be a circular argument. Like anything there are people for and against which is a good thing because it helps maintain perspective. However, this thread has run its course and if I never see another "discussion" on hlemet laws again it will be too soon.

Yogi I must say that being against "mandatory ANYTHING" is quite severe. You'd be against lower speed limits around schools then? Or wearing seat belts, or young kids in child seats or anything that may potentially reduce the severity of an injury, like PPE in the workplace? Just relax and don't wear your helmet. The world is full of laws and this is just one of them.


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