Cyclists: The Difference a Helmet Makes

November 18, 2019
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Posted by: Josephine Clucas


A recent study has revealed that around 70% of cyclists who were treated for a brain injury were not wearing a helmet at the time of their injury.  The Irish Times reports that the research findings were within in a paper delivered to the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies conference on neurosurgery, which took place in Dublin in September 2019.  The shocking findings were taken from the study, which was completed over a 30 month period.

Barbara O’Connell, the CEO of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland commented on the findings saying:

“It’s great that we now have very clear research indicating the risk of not wearing your helmet […] I think what people need to get the message about is helmets won’t stop serious injury but it will reduce the effects afterwards, but you’ve got to take a common sense response here [… ]I mean, to be honest, I’ve heard people saying to me ‘oh I arrive in work with a helmet hairdo’. It could be as simple as that.”

Dr Phil O’Halloran, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital, has said “You can’t ignore the numbers. Wearing a helmet won’t stop all serious head injury but it does reduce the risk of skull fracture.”

In a recent study in America, data over ten years examined over 76,000 cycling accidents where head/neck injuries had been suffered.  This study found that just 22% of adults and 12% of children were wearing helmets at the time of their accidents.  This is incredibly low, given that the study also found that cyclists who wore helmets were 44% less likely to die from their injuries than their counterparts who did not.  They also had less severe injuries, spent less time in intensive care and had shorter hospital stays.

Headway, the brain injury charity, notes that many of their service users sustained injuries as a result of cycling accidents.  They have found that some were experienced and others novices.  Simply put, a cycling injury can happen to anyone at any time and so safety precautions can have a huge impact on minimising injury.

Research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2016 took information from 64,000 cyclists around the world and identified that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of serious head injury by almost 70% and fatal head injury by 65%.

Former Olympian James Cracknell has had a lot of press coverage recently, after he donned his dancing shoes to join Strictly Come Dancing.  He has also spoken openly about his brain injury from a cycling accident in America and how this contributed to the breakdown of his marriage.

In his emotive video appeal, he describes how he is lucky to be alive because of his cycling helmet.

James was unable to speak or make decisions following his injury and had no short term memory.  Following intensive therapy his speech has returned to normal, he is back on his bike and the doctors expect that over time he will make a full recovery.

The research is overwhelming, and clearly shows that wearing a helmet could mean the difference between life or death.  Having said this, if you’re a cyclist who suffers a brain injury – even if you were not wearing a helmet, you would be eligible for compensation for your injuries, if the accident was deemed not to be entirely your fault.  The fact that you were not wearing a helmet is likely to only have an impact on the amount of compensation which is awarded for your injuries, not your eligibility to bring a legal claim for compensation for your injuries.

The compensation awarded would take into account the pain, suffering and financial losses you’ve suffered as a result of the accident.  This would include compensation to pay for your needs, such as treatments, therapies, equipment or adapted accommodation for example.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp we recognise that the demands of each individual with a brain injury is different.  This is why we have a dedicated team of lawyers who only specialise in legal claims for people who have suffered a brain injury.  We assess each client’s difficulties, identify their specific needs and seek to obtain compensation as swiftly as possible to put our client’s lives back on track.

Josephine Clucas is an associate solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Adult Brain Injury claims.  If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Josephine free of charge and in confidence at josephineclucas@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you.  Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.

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Posted by: Josephine Clucas

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