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Call for mandatory cycling helmets from children's hospital consultant

"We would love to see it become a requirement in Ireland"...

An Irish children's hospital consultant has spoken out making the case for cyclists to be legally required to wear a helmet, arguing accident and emergency units see a spike in crash-related injuries during the summer months.

Speaking on RTÉ's Radio 1 programme Dr Carol Blackburn, a paediatric emergency medicine consultant at CHI Crumlin, argued that the data from Australia is "well demonstrated" and said a mandatory helmet law would likely see "hospitalisations for significant head injuries reduced".

"The data that we have would demonstrate that the safety of bicycle helmets for cycling collisions can reduce the instance of serious brain injury by up to 80 per cent and can reduce facial injuries by around two thirds, and that's in children and young people colliding with other vehicles or just falling off their bicycle," she said.

Asked if she wished to see Ireland follow Australia's lead and introduce a requirement for cyclists to wear helmets, she said: "I think so. We know there is data in Australia that after the wearing of bicycle helmets was made a legal requirement, hospitalisations for significant head injuries reduced so there is an impact of it.

"Also compliance increases and it is a good thing for children to see and a good habit to get into. In many ways it is a simple intervention, helmets are not expensive any more, I think for most people if they can afford a bicycle a small additional cost for a bicycle would not impede them. The benefits are really quite well demonstrated internationally, so yes we would love to see it become a requirement in Ireland."

As the weather improves through spring and into May, Dr Blackburn reports "we start to see children who come in having sustained injuries from road traffic accidents where they've come off their bicycles or scooters, but mostly bicycles".

"Some of these injuries would include fairly significant head injuries; like moderate severity concussions, perhaps skull fractures or indeed facial lacerations and other injuries, a certain number of which would certainly be prevented if these children and young people have been wearing properly fitted bicycle helmets.

"On a bicycle a child is very exposed, there really is nothing protecting them from the elements if they are to collide with something or to come off their bicycle."

The helmet debate is a well-trodden path, the science around wearing helmets complicated. A 2017 review by statisticians at the University of New South Wales found that, based on 40 separate studies, helmet use significantly reduced the odds of head injury, and that the probability of suffering a fatal head injury was lower when cyclists wore a helmet although, the authors noted, helmets cannot eliminate the risk of injury entirely.

Another study from the same year, from Norway's Institute of Transport Economics, concluded – based on an overview of almost 30 years' worth of analysis – that bike helmets reduced head injury by 48 per cent, serious head injury by 60 per cent, traumatic brain injury by 53 per cent, facial injury by 23 per cent, and the total number of killed or seriously injured cyclists by 34 per cent.

However, while they are certainly useful when it comes to lessening the potential severity of a serious head injury, helmets have proved markedly less effective when it comes to preventing concussion, a reality of their protective limitations recognised by only one in five competitive cyclists, according to a recent study.

"Our conclusions are not that cycling headgear doesn't afford protection, but that more independent research underpinning new technologies marketed for reducing concussion is needed," said the study's lead, and former racing cyclist, Dr Jack Hardwicke last year.

In 2020, Eric Richter, the senior brand development manager at Giro also spoke out clarifying some of the "many misconceptions" about helmets, explaining how they "do not design helmets specifically to reduce chances or severity of injury when impacts involve a car".

Away from the science of injury and helmets' effectiveness, campaigners have argued that in the hierarchy of methods to protect cyclists, legal requirements for personal protective equipment should not be prioritised over reducing dangerous driving and building safe cycle routes, Chris Boardman in 2014 calling helmets a "red herring".

Speaking to road.cc he suggested widespread use of helmets spreads the wrong message and "scares people off".

"We've got to tackle the helmet debate head on because it's so annoying," Boardman said. "I think the helmet issue is a massive red herring. It's not even in the top 10 of things you need to do to keep cycling safe or more widely, save the most lives."

Research from Dr Ian Walker also found that drivers gave cyclists wearing helmets less room when overtaking, while last week we reported a new study from Australia that found that cyclists wearing helmets were seen as "less human" than those without.

> "Not at all surprised": Cyclists react to research showing riders wearing helmets and high-visibility clothing seen as "less human"

That research came just days before Conservative MP Mark Pawsey raised the question of mandatory helmets in Parliament, suggesting: "If mandatory safety measures are acceptable for car drivers, they should surely be acceptable for cyclists."

As recently as December his own government had shut down similar talk, the Department for Transport saying it has "no intention" to make wearing a helmet while cycling a legal requirement.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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108 comments

Avatar
Adam Sutton | 8 months ago
7 likes

.

Avatar
lonpfrb | 8 months ago
4 likes

"Conservative MP Mark Pawsey raised the question of mandatory helmets in Parliament"
but since he has a ten minute Private Members Bill those ten minutes will not result in a Vote so nothing will happen beyond some well meaning but misinformed virtue signalling.

Yawn...

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marmotte27 | 8 months ago
7 likes

Summer -> more people cycle -> more people get injured while cycling.
Give that woman a Nobel prize!

Avatar
brooksby replied to marmotte27 | 8 months ago
3 likes
marmotte27 wrote:

Summer -> more people cycle -> more people get injured while cycling. Give that woman a Nobel prize!

Wasn't there some study a few years ago which said that collisions happen on roads more frequently in summer because drivers are basically ogling people wearing their summer clothes...?

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 8 months ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:

Wasn't there some study a few years ago which said that collisions happen on roads more frequently in summer because drivers are basically ogling people wearing their summer clothes...?

Yeah, but they'll be driving more slowly

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chrisonabike | 8 months ago
2 likes

We're onto another version of the cat-with-buttered-toast-attached-to-its-back perpetual motion machine here.  The spinning continues indefinitely...

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eburtthebike | 8 months ago
13 likes

"We know there is data in Australia that after the wearing of bicycle helmets was made a legal requirement, hospitalisations for significant head injuries reduced......"

This article, and many others like it, prove that intelligence doesn't prevent you being misguided.  If the well-intentioned doctor had done even the merest smidgeon of research, she would have discovered that the reason why hospital admissions of cyclists fell after the helmet law was because there were fewer cyclists, and that cycling actually became more dangerous.

As others have pointed out, preventing one injury isn't much use if the side effects are a hundred times worse than the injury.  In this case, the only proven effect of helmet laws is to deter people from cycling, so that they lose the overwhelming benefits, and they get sicker quicker and die younger in poorer health.

I wonder when the BMA is going to have the promised review of the kangaroo court decision to support a helmet law?  It's only been ten years or so.

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grOg replied to eburtthebike | 8 months ago
0 likes

I cycle commute in Australia and have done for decades; it's a furphy that having to wear a helmet discourages people from cycling and as for cycling being more dangerous because cyclists wear helmets, that's up there with all the outlandish conspiracy theories I'm sure you'd scoff at.

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Paul J replied to grOg | 8 months ago
4 likes

Except it's true.

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wycombewheeler replied to grOg | 8 months ago
6 likes

1) what's a furphy? Not sure whether this is a typo or some Australian colloquialism . nevermind "A furphy is Australian slang for an erroneous or improbable story that is claimed to be factual."

2) what was the number of km travelled by bike before mandatory helmets and afterwards

3)what was the number of deaths per billion km cycled before mandatory helmets and what was it afterwards?

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chrisonabike replied to wycombewheeler | 8 months ago
5 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

1) what's a furphy?

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joe9090 replied to grOg | 8 months ago
2 likes

Scoffing at aussies coz they often spout a load of old BS. The most preachiest bunch of bores I ever encountered. 

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to joe9090 | 8 months ago
2 likes
joe9090 wrote:

Scoffing at aussies coz they often spout a load of old BS. The most preachiest bunch of bores I ever encountered. 

Classic bigotry. I would love to see any evidence/data to back up grog's point (I have looked for it and haven't found it) but whether grog is right or wrong is irrespective of grog being Australian.

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eburtthebike replied to grOg | 8 months ago
1 like
grOg wrote:

I cycle commute in Australia and have done for decades; it's a furphy that having to wear a helmet discourages people from cycling and as for cycling being more dangerous because cyclists wear helmets, that's up there with all the outlandish conspiracy theories I'm sure you'd scoff at.

Taking your own single case and expanding it to the whole population isn't really all that scientific, and has the rather inconvenient fact of being contradicted by the data.  Not really up there with fake moon landings.

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Secret_squirrel | 8 months ago
8 likes

Why do we keep giving any time to these people simply because they have a Dr in front of their name. 
If they aren't quoting from a top grade medical study they are just another arsehole with a opinion .

Most doctors know the theory of how to run a treatment or prevention study but get the support of experts when they actually run one.

 

 

 

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to Secret_squirrel | 8 months ago
1 like
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Why do we keep giving any time to these people simply because they have a Dr in front of their name. 
If they aren't quoting from a top grade medical study they are just another arsehole with a opinion .

Most doctors know the theory of how to run a treatment or prevention study but get the support of experts when they actually run one.

 

 

 

The anti-helmet brigade don't want to hear about studies on the efficacy of helmets at preventing head injuries ("the worst of bad science" if I seem to recall), they don't want to hear from doctors who specialise in cranial injuries and surgeries on the basis they don't know anything about helmets (despite a total lack of knowledge about what the doctors do and do not know about helmets), they don't want to hear from helmet manufacturers on the basis that it's all just some big conspiracy.

I think they just don't want to hear about helmets.

Why do people keep giving these people time? Because they are knowledgeable in their field.

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LookAhead replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 8 months ago
11 likes

The anti-helmet brigade?

Most of us are simply against mandatory helmet regulations. Indeed, many (I'd wager most) of us who oppose such regulations nevertheless choose to wear helmets personally. We acknowledge that helmets can do some good; we just argue that the drawbacks of mandatory regulations overwhelm the benefits of helmets.

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to LookAhead | 8 months ago
0 likes
LookAhead wrote:

The anti-helmet brigade?

Most of us are simply against mandatory helmet regulations. Indeed, many (I'd wager most) of us who oppose such regulations nevertheless choose to wear helmets personally. We acknowledge that helmets can do some good; we just argue that the drawbacks of mandatory regulations overwhelm the benefits of helmets.

Some are, that's true. I myself am against mandatory helmets, but every time you mention rule 59 of the highway code on this website it starts an argument.

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LookAhead replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 8 months ago
8 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Some are, that's true. I myself am against mandatory helmets, but every time you mention rule 59 of the highway code on this website it starts an argument.

Every time you mention rule 59 of the highway code on this website it you starts an argument.

ftfy😉

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to LookAhead | 8 months ago
5 likes
LookAhead wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Some are, that's true. I myself am against mandatory helmets, but every time you mention rule 59 of the highway code on this website it starts an argument.

Every time you mention rule 59 of the highway code on this website it you starts an argument.

ftfy😉

That's fair.

Avatar
Simon E replied to LookAhead | 8 months ago
4 likes

Not forgetting that compulsory helmets and the victim-blaming of hi-viz and hats for vulnerable road users will be worse than useless and solve nothing.

But instead let's pompously malign the people pointing out this folly.

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joe9090 replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 8 months ago
3 likes

You sound very prescriptive. That is not OK. 

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to joe9090 | 8 months ago
0 likes
joe9090 wrote:

You sound very prescriptive. That is not OK. 

Oh boo. The bigot disagrees with me.

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ChrisB200SX replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 8 months ago
5 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

The anti-helmet brigade...

Maybe give your straw man a rest? You are wasting your time arguing with your imaginery friend, you can carry on doing that in private if you wish but do us all a favour and take your straw man elsewhere.

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to ChrisB200SX | 8 months ago
1 like
ChrisB200SX wrote:

Maybe give your straw man a rest?

One of the things about straw men is that they're quiet. Lots of comments on this article alone though...

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BBB | 8 months ago
9 likes

I'm guessing that around half of the patients that the consultant in question treats are drivers and passengers involved in car crashes. Any helmet recommendations form them?

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Mungecrundle replied to BBB | 8 months ago
8 likes

Cycling, scootering, playing football at the park, accidents around the home, being a passenger in the family car. Maybe all children should have a helmet glued to their head as soon as they start to crawl?

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kingleo replied to BBB | 8 months ago
7 likes

And pedestrians - why does the medical profession and politicians never demand that motorists and pedestrians wear crash helmets? after all most head injuries happen to them. 

  

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Paul J replied to kingleo | 8 months ago
4 likes

Cause they're part of the usual anti-cycling tendency in society, except they're falsely using their (irrelevant) clinical qualifications to claim (or be ascribed) authority over social issues they have fuck all qualification to pontificate on.

Which all feeds into the god complex many medics have.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to BBB | 8 months ago
5 likes
BBB wrote:

I'm guessing that around half of the patients that the consultant in question treats are drivers ...

I hope not

Quote:

An Irish children's hospital consultant

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