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Motorcycle Wrecks a Major Cause of Brain Injury in Youths

November 16th, 2010

This week, two articles published in the medical journal Pediatrics highlight the extremely high cost of motorcycle wrecks for youths ages 12 to 20.

The first study, “Youth Motorcycle-Related Hospitalizations and Traumatic Brain Injuries in the United States in 2006,” showed that the number of motorcycle deaths and injuries are increasing for children and young adults. Between 1999 and 2006, there was an 88% increase in motorcycle-related deaths. Among young motorcycle riders who are in a crash, one-third sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Those with TBI were more likely to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility (instead of home), and 24% had long-term TBI-related disability.

The second study, “Youth Motorcycle-Related Brain Injury by State Helmet Law Type: United States, 2005-2007,” examined how differing helmet laws affect rates of brain injury and death among motorcycle riders ages 12 to 20. The researchers found something unexpected: States that have a youth-specific helmet law have an increased risk of  TBI that required hospitalization, disability, and death. States with a specific <21 law have 38% higher rates of serious TBI than states with universal helmet laws.

What might account for this counterintuitive finding? Perhaps universal helmet laws make adults more likely to remember their child’s helmet when they put on their own. Or it may be that adults who regularly use helmets themselves pay more attention to other aspects of safety while driving a motorcycle. The study just examined the numbers…it didn’t provide answers. However, the study’s authors declare:

Advocates for repealing universal helmet laws often assert that this retains their desire for choice while protecting young adults. This assertion is dubious; with consistent evidence of increased death and serious injury to young adults and minors who are supposed to be protected.

We agree. We have seen first-hand the devastation of traumatic brain injury caused by crashes involving motorcycles. We represent people who have had their lives destroyed by motorcycle wrecks. There is no good reason to subject a young person to risks they cannot control, and which carry such a potentially high price tag.

To read the full studies, click on the titles below:

“Youth Motorcycle-Related Hospitalizations and Traumatic Brain Injuries in the United States in 2006” [Weiss, et al. Pediatrics, November 15, 2010]

“Youth Motorcycle-Related Brain Injury by State Helmet Law Type: United States, 2005-2007” [Weiss, et al. Pediatrics, November 15, 2010]

To read more about traumatic brain injury and/or motorcycle wrecks, see our dedicated pages at www.lawmed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.