Why a Motorcycle Helmet Can Save Your LifeSep 25, 2013
Dr. Troy Madsen of the University of Utah has treated countless patients injured in motorcycle accidents. He weighs in on why the simple act of wearing a helmet can make a big difference in the event of an accident.
Dr. Troy Madsen: I can tell you from first hand experience that helmets make a difference if you're on a motorcycle. And we have a new study now showing that even the type of helmet makes a difference. I'm Dr. Troy Madsen, emergency room physician at University of Utah hospital and I'll talk about that next.
Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.
Dr. Troy Madsen: So I had a situation, it's been quite a while ago, but I had a law enforcement officer who came into the emergency room, by ambulance, after a motorcycle accident. Now the thing that we were just really confused about is in talking to him, he had not; he was not wearing a helmet. And we asked him, why weren't you wearing a helmet during this, you know he could have had much less severe injuries, he ended up having some bleeding in his brain, fortunately it was not life threatening. But he said to us, "You know," he said, "I always talk to my wife about wearing a helmet and she's always getting on my case, and I told her the only reason to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle is that's just the difference between an open casket or a closed casket funeral." That was his rational, he just felt that no matter what happened on a motorcycle, it would kill him and so he didn't really care if he wore a helmet.
Well I can tell you from firsthand experience that helmets do make a difference. Now if you're in a motorcycle accident you are not going to die from that. You very well could walk away just with bruises and the thing I've always seen that seems to make the biggest difference is a helmet. There have been several studies and we've known for a long time that helmets do prevent severe head injuries. The big thing I get concerned about is bleeding in the brain, helmets make a big difference there. They may also prevent something a little more mild, like concussions, but something that can cause some very serious long term problems with difficulty remembering things, difficulty with balance, things that can even prevent you from riding your motorcycle in the future.
So again, it's not a life and death sort of thing if you have an accident. You probably will live and helmets can make you have a much more full, much better life. Now a study just came out in the Journal of Trauma that even looked at the type of helmets, and they looked at the full facial helmets, those that have facial coverage in addition to your head, and found that even those helmets make a big difference. Now riders who were wearing full facial helmets were much less likely to have facial fractures, again that's another very serious thing that often requires surgery, keeps you in the hospital for many days. So just the type of helmet that you're wearing can make a huge difference.
It's interesting that we do have seat belt laws across the country, yet in many states, including in the state of Utah, we do not have helmet laws. Children under 18 are required to wear a helmet but if you're 18 or over, it's your decision. I would encourage you to make that decision to wear a helmet. It'll keep you out of the ER and potentially prevent any long term problems or injuries from a motorcycle accident.
Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.