Helmets for the Spine

Motorcyle helmet use is associated with reduced risk of spine injury

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Motorcycle helmets obviously reduce the risk of head and brain injuries. Now, a new study finds that helmets are also linked to a reduced risk of cervical spine injury.

Using the National Trauma Databank, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed records covering information of over 40,000 motorcycle crashes occurring between 2002 and 2006. They found that motorcycle riders who wore helmets were 22 percent less likely than those without helmets to experience cervical spine injury.

This finding is in contrast to an oft-cited 25-year-old study that suggested that the weight of a helmet could twist the neck during a crash, resulting in spine injury. According to study leader Dr. Adil H. Haider, an assistant professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the new findings suggesting that helmet use actually reduces spine injury is debunking the myth created by the old study.

Even though there exists plenty of evidence that shows how helmet use reduces the risk of death and traumatic brain injury, mandatory helmet use laws have been repealed in many states over the last 15 years due to pressure from lobbyists (obviously not the helmet lobby).

Over the past 10 years, more and more people have started riding motorcycles. Since 1997, the number of motorcycle injuries has grown by about 5,000 per year while the number of motorcycle fatalities has almost doubled.

Like many researchers before have found, Haider and colleagues found that the use of helmets reduced the risk of brain injury as well as death. However, according to Haider, this new study is the most compelling evidence yet that helmets substantially reduce the risk of cervical spine injury. The study is published online in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 9, 2011
Last Updated:
February 11, 2011