UW-Hospital Study Shows Motorcycle Helmets Reduce Neck Injuries

Motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets are twice as likely to suffer neck injuries in crashes as those who use helmets, according to a study conducted by UW-Hospital trauma patients. The findings counter other research saying the weight of helmets can make the neck more vulnerable to injuries, an argument that is one reason many motorcyclists oppose mandatory helmet laws.

Wisconsin requires only riders age 17 and younger to wear helmets. The state has had an annual average of 2,287 motorcycle crashes, with 84 motorcyclists killed, in recent years, according to the state Department of Transportation. About 73-percent of those killed were not wearing helmets.

The UW study was published this month in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.

It looked at the 1,061 patients treated for motorcycle crashes at UW’s trauma center from 2010 to 2015. Nearly 70-percent didn’t wear helmets.

Among them, 15.5-percent had neck injuries, including 10.8-percent with spinal fractures. Among riders who used helmets, 7.4-percent had neck injuries, including 4.6-percent with spinal fractures. The study didn’t look at other kinds of injuries or deaths.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets reduce the risk of head injuries from motorcycle crashes by 69-percent and deaths by 37-percent.