New York, March 6 : Helmet usage while riding a motorcycle lowers the likelihood of cervical spine injury (CSI), particularly fractures of the cervical vertebrae, a new study has found.
Major reasons cited for not requiring helmets while riding a motorcycle include freedom of choice, avoiding any limitation on vision and a perceived increased risk of receiving a CSI. The last reason is based on the belief that the added weight of a helmet might increase torque on the cervical spine, the researcher said.
"Our study suggests that wearing a motorcycle helmet is a reasonable way to limit the risk of injury to the cervical spine in a motorcycle crash," said Nathaniel P. Brooks, MD at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison, in the US.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, wearing helmets saved the lives of 1,859 motorcycle riders in 2016; an additional 802 lives could have been saved if every motorcyclist had worn them.
For the study, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, researchers reviewed the charts of 1,061 patients who had been injured in motorcycle crashes and treated at a single Level 1 trauma centre in Wisconsin between year 2010 to 2015.
Of those patients, 323 (30.4 per cent) were wearing helmets at the time of the crash and 738 (69.6 per cent) were not, as Wisconsin law does not require all riders to wear a helmet.
At least one CSI was sustained by 7.4 per cent of the riders wearing a helmet and 15.4 per cent of those not wearing one.
Cervical spine fractures occurred more often in patients who were not wearing helmets (10.8 per cent compared to 4.6per cent), as did ligament injuries (1.9 per cent compared with 0.3 per cent); again these differences are statistically significant, the researchers said.
There were no significant differences between groups (helmeted vs. unhelmeted riders) with respect to other types of cervical spine injuries that were sustained: nerve root injury, cervical strain, or cord contusion.
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