OBJECTIVE: To determine the risk factors for serious injury to bicyclists, aside from helmet use. DESIGN: Prospective case-control study. SETTING: Seven Seattle area hospital emergency departments and two county medical examiner's offices. PATIENTS: Individuals treated in the emergency department or dying from bicycle related injuries. MEASUREMENTS: Information collected from injured bicyclists or their parents by questionnaire on circumstances of the crash; abstract of medical records for injury data. Serious injury defined as an injury severity score > 8. ANALYSIS: Odd ratios computed using the maximum likelihood method, and adjusted using unconditional logistic regression. RESULTS: There were 3854 injured cyclists in the three year period; 3390 (88%) completed questionnaires were returned 51% wore helmets at the time of crash. Only 22.3% of patients had head injuries and 34% had facial injuries. Risk of serious injury was increased by collision with a motor vehicle (odds ratio (OR) = 4.6), self reported speed > 15 mph (OR = 1.2), young age (< 6 years), and age > 39 years (OR = 2.1 and 2.2 respectively, compared with adults 20-39 years). Risk for serious injury was not affected by helmet use (OR = 0.9). Risk of neck injury was increased in those struck by motor vehicles (OR = 4.0), hospitalized for any injury (OR = 2.0), and those who died (OR = 15.1), but neck injury was not affected by helmet use. CONCLUSIONS: Prevention of serious bicycle injuries cannot be accomplished through helmet use alone, and may require separation of cyclists from motor vehicles, and delaying cycling until children are developmentally ready.
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