DOCTOR'S VIEWS ARCHIVE
Bicycle Helmet Use By Children: Bad News-Good News
WASHINGTON--A national study in 1996 has concluded that helmet use rates among bicycle-riding children in the United States remains low, although rate of use is increasing.
71% of the bicyclists who were treated in hospital emergency rooms in 1991 were younger than 15 years of age. The chances of an injured child bicyclist having injuries to the head or face was more than twice that of older riders.
31% of bicycle-related deaths in 1991 involved children under the age of 15 years (most of which resulted from head trauma).
Injury studies in the past have shown that bicycle helmets can reduce both the likelihood and severity of head injury.
Helmet use among children generally ranged from between 2% to 5% during the mid- to late-1980s.
In a recent study, published in the journal PEDIATRICS, Gregory B. Rodgers, PhD found that less than one fifth of the children who rode bicycles wore helmets all or more than half of the time in 1991.
Dr. Rodgers also noted that more than 40% of the children who owned or had the use of helmets wore the helmets less than half of the time or never.
Commonly reported reasons why children bicyclists were not using helmets included seldom riding in traffic, forgetting, and not believing it was necessary.
The "good news" from the study was that, in comparison to helmet use rates from the 1980s, the children studied in 1991 were using their helmets more often.
Dr. Rodgers suggests that parents be made aware that bicycle injuries are frequent and can result in serious injury. He recommends that methods to increase helmet use should include promotion of groups that assist low-income households in providing helmets for their children. He further recommends the development of techniques to reduce peer pressure which discourages helmet use.