When it comes to sports and brain injuries, football tends to dominate the conversation. And why not? It’s a very aggressive contact sport where the players’ heads are often in the line of fire. But a new study found that football isn’t the sport linked to the most traumatic brain injuries – that title belongs to cycling.
Surprised? Don’t be. When you look at the statistics, it’s not even close. A recent study by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) examined the estimated 446,788 sports-related head injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009. Of those, 85,389 were caused by cycling followed by football in a distant second at 46,948. Baseball and softball (38,394), basketball (34,692) and water sports (28,716) were in the top 5. Cycling was also the primary cause of sports-related head injuries for children under 14 (40,272 cases), followed by football (21,878).
So these statistics just BEG the question: why? Well, part of it is prevalence. On any given day in Philadelphia, you’re likely to see dozens upon dozens of people on bikes – probably not so many playing football. But we all know what the real issue is: helmet use. Or, lack thereof.
It is estimated that up to 85% of head injuries can be prevented through proper usage of approved helmets. First, that means wearing one. Seriously, folks – I know no one likes helmet hair, but it is way better than the alternative. Second, that means making sure the helmet you are wearing fits properly. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has a great checklist of steps to properly fit your helmet, as well as a tons of FAQs about what to look for when choosing your helmet. SafeKids also offers great tips for helmet and bicycle safety – check out their video on proper fitting below.
For more information about bike safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s page on bicycling.