Dental Tribune International

Bicycle helmets not effective in reducing severity of facial injuries

By Dental Tribune International
October 18, 2019

SEATTLE, U.S.: Although cycling and bicycle accidents are increasingly common in the U.S., many cyclists do not realize the importance of wearing a helmet. In a recent study, researchers have measured the effectiveness of bicycle helmets in preventing and reducing the severity of maxillofacial injuries. They reported that cyclists who wear helmets are less likely to experience facial injury in a bicycle crash. However, helmet use did not affect the severity of the injury, which might be explained by the fact that standard helmets do not include a mask to protect the maxillofacial region.

The researchers, from the University of Washington School of Dentistry, implemented a retrospective cohort study and included data relating to 1,379 cyclists who were injured between 2012 and 2018 and went to a medical center for evaluation and treatment. After determining whether the cyclists had experienced a maxillofacial injury, the researchers assessed the severity of such injuries.

Among the participants, men and younger cyclists were less likely to wear a helmet. Alcohol use was less frequent among helmeted cyclists, and cyclists with alcohol detected in their system had twice the risk of facial injuries. However, the findings showed no statistically significant difference between the severity of injuries among helmeted and nonhelmeted cyclists. Most of the cyclists (60.6%) were wearing a helmet at the time of the incident and were 40% less likely to experience a facial injury from the crash. Among those who did not wear a helmet, 30.6% were injured, compared with 17.3% of helmeted cyclists.

“We advocate for the implementation of a protective chin strap to help prevent lower face injuries like other studies, a redesign of bicycle helmets to provide facial protection and a limit on the blood alcohol concentration of bicyclists,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers also called for more studies to explore how the increasing popularity of cycling, the growth of bicycle share options, loose helmet regulations and changing attitudes about the environmental impact of cycling will change injury patterns, frequency and severity.

The study, titled “Helmets decrease risk of bicyclist-related maxillofacial injuries but not severity,” was published in the October 2019 issue of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

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