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Head Injuries From a Bicycle Accident

head injuries from a bicycle accident

Every year, hundreds of riders lose their lives to bicycle accidents. Since a bike does not provide as much protection as a four-door vehicle, most of the time a cyclist will suffer greater injuries. Many of the bike riders who are hit by a car could have alleviated some of their injuries by just simply putting a helmet on. Cyclists are the largest population in recreational sports who suffer from traumatic brain injuries.

Cyclists experience these head injuries as a result of falling and hitting their heads directly on the pavement or by colliding with car. Head injuries can alter a person's brain activity and if the injury is not examined by a doctor immediately it could worsen over time.

Read more on what you can do to prevent a bike wreck head injury and what may occur when you do not take measures to protect yourself.

California Bicycle Injury Statistics

As the cost of motor vehicles rises, so does the use of less expensive transportation methods. Recent reports have indicated that 47.5 million people ride a bicycle daily. Even though cities have taken steps to accommodate the increasing rates of people commuting on bicycles, bike collisions are still an apparent issue. Various reasons why bicycle crashes take place include distracted driving, speeding and motorists riding too close to the bike lane. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,000 cyclists were killed, and 467,000 people were injured in bicycle accidents in a single year in the U.S.

Helmet vs. No Helmet Data

California Assembly Bill 3077 (California's helmet law) requires cyclists "under 18 years of age to wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet, as specified, while operating, or riding as a passenger upon, a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, or while wearing in-line or roller skates, upon a street, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path or trail. A violation of this provision is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $25."

California lawmakers made bicycle helmet safety a priority due to the growing concern over bike and e-scooter accidents. The bill was passed to prevent future injuries amongst young adults and children. pie chart of helmet statistics

Research has demonstrated that "cycling had the highest concussion rate among all sports, including American football." Over the years, countless academics and cyclists have argued over the question of "how much risk of a head injury is reduced when wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle?" Many cyclists have also doubted the bicycle helmet's effectiveness in preventing injuries and death.

Data has proven though that the number of head injuries was reduced with people who wore a helmet when riding a bike. The demographic that is most at risk for enduring life-threating head injuries from bicycle accidents are children.

Children Are More Susceptible to A Bike Accident Head Injury

Children are admitted into the emergency room for serious bicycle injuries on a daily basis. Evidence released by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital showed that minors 10-14 years old who did not wear helmets were harmed more than kids who wore protective gear. One of the primary reasons that led to a child experiencing a head injury from a bike crash was colliding into a motor vehicle. Children are not always aware of their surroundings and how fast they are going.

5 Common Cycling Injuries

In bicycle accident cases, cyclists often endure head injuries from being thrown off of a bike and onto the concrete. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) usually results from a blow to the head that can potentially modify the brain functionality. A head injury is very different from a broken limb or a punctured lung because it's an injury that can affect every aspect of a human being – physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive. Survivors often struggle with limited physical functions, abnormal speech or language, and other emotional or behavioral problems.

Common head injuries cyclists frequently sustain include:

  1. Concussion: A concussion has been classified as a mild brain injury, although recent research suggests that even these types of injuries could have long-term effects. Some of the common concussion symptoms include headaches, memory issues, mood swings, loss of consciousness and seizures.
  2. Skull fracture: Skull fractures involve parts of the cranial bone (the bone that carries the brain) becoming broken. There are four types of skull fractures that a cyclist can experience which may encompass an open, depressed or basal fracture of the skull. Many people assume that a cranial fracture is obvious. This often is not the case. A closed skull fracture does not tear the skin. If a person is bleeding from their ears, having swelling or a warm sensation where the injury occurred, they must seek medical attention immediately.
  3. Brain contusion: A brain contusion is when the brain develops bruises from a blunt force to the head. This type of injury causes swelling and bleeding of the brain. These bruises can vary from being minor to severe. Contusions are equivalent to blood clots and if large enough they will need to be removed surgically. Occasionally, signs of contusions or the progression of contusions are not formed until two or three days later. Keep an eye out for symptoms like confusion, sleepiness, vomiting or seizures.
  4. Intra-cranial hemorrhage: Intra-cranial hemorrhaging or cerebral hemorrhaging differs from a brain contusion because the bleeding of the brain is caused by a ruptured blood vessel. The brain needs continuous circulation of oxygen and when a blood vessel breaks there is not much space for oxygen to circulate. Intra-cranial hemorrhaging can also lead a person to suffer from a stroke.
  5. Epidural hematoma: Epidural hematoma is the bleeding of the space between the skull and the dura. The bleeding is not directly in the brain but between the skull and the layer that covers the brain. This type of head injury affects mostly children. Children being two years or younger. A toddler’s brain is not yet fully developed and the outer layer of the brain (dura) is still close to the skull. When there is intense bleeding between the skull and dura the child has an increased chance of experiencing intra-cranial pressure.

Determining Which Bicycle Helmet is Right for You

There are many benefits of bicycle helmets. The way in which a helmet is intended to work is by spreading the force from the impact throughout the head. When the force of the impact is extended it can prevent the skull from being fractured. There are two important parts of a bike helmet which include the shell and the cushion inside of the helmet. The shell of the helmet functions to protect your neck. When you slide on the pavement, the shell keeps your neck from jerking back and forth. The cushion or the foam that is in your helmet works to lessen the impact of the blow to your head.

Did you know you can lessen your chances of being hurt by the type of helmet you purchase?

Many people are not aware that there are different classes of helmets based on their use. For example, a cyclist who participates in mountain biking may need a different helmet from someone who participates in bicycle racing.

Below you will find the various types of helmets that are used for each cycling category:

Commuter cycling helmets (recreational helmets):

photo of regular bicycle helmet

Commuter bicycle helmets have a basic form of design to protect your head. Since cyclists who wear these helmets are not riding at a high speed, these helmets do not contain many vents to keep the cyclist cool while riding or have lights installed to see when it is dark.

Children’s helmets:

photo a kid's helmet

Kid’s bicycle helmets are like those of adult helmets. Sometimes a child helmet will come with additional accessories like visors and vents, and have many options on adjusting the helmet. Frequently many parents do not take into consideration the fit of the helmet. It is important that a child has a fitted helmet to properly protect their head when they fall and prevent choking as well.

Mountain bike helmets:

photo of a mountain bike helmet

These types of helmets come with many accessories to keep the cyclists comfortable and safe. Mountain bikers have an increased chance of being catapulted in any direction as opposed to a cyclist riding on the street who is thrown forward off the bike. This type of helmet provides coverage to parts of the head such as the occipital bone which is in the back of the head and to the temporal lobes. It is also designed to protect regions of the head such as the chin, mouth and face.

Other Types of Bike Safety Gear You Should Consider

Cyclists are more at risk to experience major injuries in an accident due to being physically vulnerable to weather elements and car crashes. Some states even require supplementary bike equipment to secure extra safety for cyclists.

The following are additional materials that you can wear along with your helmet to protect you while cycling.

  • Reflective mirrors: Retroreflectors or reflective mirrors are designed to reflect light back in order to illuminate the road. The enhancement of light from the reflective mirrors helps a driver spot a cyclist. Reflective mirrors decrease the risk of a biker being involved in a collision. There are two types of reflector mirrors which include the “cat-eye” reflectors and "cube-corner" reflectors. The difference between the two reflectors lies in how much light they illuminate and how the light is reflected off each mirror.
  • Reflective clothing: The key purpose of reflective bike equipment is so cyclists can remain visible to drivers in dimly lit places or at nighttime. By wearing reflective material, you are making your whole body known to a driver. Research has indicated that drivers identified bikers easier if they were wearing more reflective material. Common types of reflective clothing bikers wear are tracksuits, vests, jackets, knee and ankle reflectors.
  • Mouthguards: Even though research has confirmed that helmets very much protect the head of a biker, it does not mean that it protects the face of a biker. Custom-fit mouth guards not only protect your mouth but also better your cycling performance. According to Damage Control Mouthguards, fitted mouthguards “improved the maximum levels of voluntary oxygen consumption, plus increased their ability to perform exercise for a longer period without becoming tired.”
  • Active lighting: Active lighting unlike passive lighting (reflectors) transmits light from a power source. Active lighting brightens the road ahead for cyclists, makes a rider more visible and gives a driver an idea of how far in distance a biker is. Elements to keep in mind when purchasing the lights are the size, shape and whether the light is a solid or single point light.
  • First aid kit: A first aid kit will not fix your injury completely, but experts say that it can provide you with enough care while waiting for a medical professional to arrive. Cyclists can purchase small first aid kits that can be attached to the bike or carried within a backpack.

man cleaning bike

Ways to Prevent a Bicycle Head Injury

In the United States, there are over 2.8 million people that are admitted into the emergency room for a traumatic brain injury. Participating in recreational sports will increase your chances of sustaining a brain injury. Biking is one of the most prominent sports where people experience serious head injuries, but there are ways that you can lower the possibilities of being involved in a bike accident.

Measures you can take to minimize the chances of you being in a bike collision include:

Maintain upkeep on your equipment: Keep your bike in working condition by cleaning it on a regular basis. The number of times you need to clean your bike will depend on where you cycle and the weather conditions you cycle in. It is important to keep your bicycle well lubricated. You can save your bike from rusting or freezing by lubricating it when needed. Parts of the bike to focus on when you are cleaning are the chain, the rear cassette and the brakes.

Fall correctly: To prevent serious injuries when falling most riders are not aware that there are actual techniques to do so. The techniques differ from the kind of fall you experience and at what speed you were cycling at. Experts stress that no matter what fall you endure, do not fall on your hands. It’s a natural reaction to want to fall on your hand to protect your upper body. The right way to fall though would be curling up and keeping your knees against your chest. This is known as the tuck and roll method.

Follow the rules of the road: Cyclists who bike on a regular basis, whether it be for recreation or commuting to work, must adhere to the rules of the road to prevent a collision. Some of these rules include riding in the same direction as traffic, not riding their bike on sidewalks, yielding to drivers and pedestrians crossing the street, obeying traffic lights and using hand signals when making turns.

Learn more on bicycle safety here

Contact an Experienced Bike Accident Lawyer

For over four decades, the award-winning California bicycle accident lawyers of Bisnar Chase have won over $500 million dollars in compensation. Our attorneys have continued to hold a 99% success rate and always look to better their relationship with clients.

Our aim is to provide clients with the best legal representation.

Contact our Southern California law offices at 800-561-4887 for a free consultation.

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