Riding a bike is a popular recreational activity for kids. Cycling is also a popular form of exercise for many adults across the world. In fact, in the United States alone, 67 million people ride bikes for an estimated total of 15 billion hours of riding each year. Unfortunately, bicycle injuries can and do occur.
Studies have estimated that bicycle injuries account for 1.2 million doctor’s clinic visits, 580,000 emergency department visits, 23,000 hospital admissions and 900 deaths each year in the United States.
Researchers in the Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the Seattle Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center wanted to learn more about bicycle injuries and their risk factors. In a study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention, Frederick P. Rivara and others collected data from patients who suffered bicycle injuries that presented to emergency rooms at seven Seattle area hospitals over a 2 ½ year period.
Through questionnaires and phone surveys, the researchers found many surprising statistics about bicycle injuries and risk factors for serious injuries:
1. Over 70% of the patients who suffered bicycle injuries were male.
2. Almost half (43.3%) of the patients were aged 12 and younger.
3. 62% of the injured bicyclists rode bikes daily.
4. Experienced cyclists suffered injuries as well. Of the adults and teenagers older than 14, about 36% rode more than 50 miles per week.
5. Only 50.7% – about half – of the injured bicycle riders were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Among children and adolescents, 47.6% of the kids under five years old, 44.7% of children aged 6 to 12, and 32.2% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19 were wearing helmets.
6. About three in five (59.6%) suffered injuries to the upper extremity. Just under half suffered lower extremity injuries. About one third suffered facial injuries, and approximately 1/5 (22.3%) suffered head injuries.
7. A bicyclist losing control of the bike and hitting the ground was the most common mechanism of injury (50.0% of injuries). 29% collided with an obstacle, and 15.3% were involved in a collision with a motor vehicle.
8. Children aged 12 and under had a 2 times greater risk of serious injury compared to adults aged 20 to 39.
9. 14 fatalities occurred. Riders not wearing helmets were 14.3 times more likely to die in a bike crash than those wearing helmets. Put another way, the researchers calculated that wearing a helmet was associated with a 93% decrease in the risk of fatality.
Obviously the statistics are frightening. I don’t present them to discourage anyone from riding a bicycle for exercise or for fun. We just need to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our kids.
Wear helmets. Closely observe your surroundings. Educate your children on safe bicycling and have them do it in safe areas.
Rivara FP, Thompson DC, Thompson RS. Epidemiology of bicycle injuries and risk factors for serious injury. Inj Prev 2015;21:47–51.