Cycle helmets 'reduce serious head injury risk by 70%'

A potential change in the law for cyclists

A new study of more than 64,000 cyclists has found that wearing protective headgear while cycling can help cut the risk of a serious head or brain injury by nearly 70%.

Data gathered by the University of New South Wales in Australia is in stark contrast to previous studies - which indicated that cycle helmets encourage ‘risk-taking behaviour’, or fail to reduce serious injury to the brain. In fact, researchers found that the more serious the potential injury, the more effective a cycle helmet was at preventing it.

The study also found that – contrary to previous reports – cycle helmets show no causal link to neck injuries and that those who were helmets reduce their chance of suffering a fatal head injury by 65%.

“Helmet use is associated with odds reductions of 51% for head injury, 69% for serious head injury, 33% for face injury and 65% for fatal head injury. Injuries to the neck were rare and not associated with helmet use,” the study found.

However, researchers warned that helmets could not entirely eliminate head or facial injuries and that other strategies would be needed to help prevent injuries to other parts of the body.

Local governments in Australia have recently introduced tough new laws for cyclists, with a fine of $319 AUD (approximately £185) for those who are found cycling without a helmet.

The report - which was presented at the Safety 2016 conference in Finland this week – may encourage debate over similar laws in the UK, where the wearing of a cycle helmet remains at the discretion of the individual rider.

Kate Sweeney, Head of Personal Injury Law at Stephensons said: “The most contentious and common issue in cycling claims is the wearing, or not, of a helmet. There is no legislation which requires the wearing of helmets.

“However, cyclists should be aware that failing to wear a helmet could affect their prospects of securing compensation, should they receive a head injury where another road user is at fault.

“The failure to wear a helmet is a very common argument raised in an effort to suggest a cyclist was in some way ‘negligent’ and therefore partly at fault for any injury. Other arguments could include, ‘was the cyclist visible enough’, ‘was the cyclist behaving recklessly or dangerously’ and ‘were they wilfully distracted; perhaps by headphones or a mobile phone.

“We would always recommend that cyclists wear a helmet when out on the roads.”