France, Le Tour, cycling injuries and cycle helmets
August 6, 2011 13 Comments
Welcome back following a short break in France, during which I spent a week in the Languedoc admiring the scenery and enjoying the French hospitality. Not everyone was as lucky as I was to be taking things easy, however, and Le Tour was in full swing during my time there, this being the 98th edition of the race since it was first held in 1903. The gruelling 21 stages run over 23 days covers a distance of 3430 km, and the race is a real test with a chequered and interesting history.
This year’s Tour was won by an Australian for the first time, Cadel Evans, who gained the lead on the penultimate day.
As usual, there were a number of casualties, mostly from crashes involving some high profile riders. These included Britain’s Bradley Wiggins who crashed out on stage 7 of Le Tour with a fractured clavicle during a pile-up which can be seen in this Guardian UK video footage . Others injured during the race included Andreas Klöden, Alexandre Vinokourov, Janez Brajcovic, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Chris Horner who were all unable to continue the race due to their injuries.
Again this year, a large proportion of serious injuries were caused by collisions with vehicles, including an incident with a car involved with TV coverage which resulted in injuries to Juan Antonia Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland and led to Christian Prudhomme, Tour organiser, to say ‘It’s a scandal.’ Hoogerland’s dramatic lacerations following his collision with barbed wire can be seen in this image. In addition, Nikki Sorensen was struck by a photographer on his motorbike.
For a useful review of injuries associated with cycling, see this 2001 article by Thompson and Rivara published in American Family Physician.
Those of us who are perhaps more used to keeping safe whilst cycling in the streets might be more interested in this article published earlier this year in Injury Prevention by Lusk and colleagues, based on regional data from Montreal, which highlights the differences in injury rates between cycling on cycle tracks compared with comparable reference streets. The study found that the relative risk of injury on cycle tracks was 0.72 (95% CI 0.60 to 0.85) compared with cycling in reference streets, suggesting that the risk of injury from cycling on tracks is less than cycling in the streets.
A key element of road cycle safety surely has to be legislation for the mandatory use of helmets which still hasn’t found it’s way here in the UK. This is perhaps regretful – especially following the introduction of the London Cycle Hire Scheme which merely advises riders to consider wearing a cycle helmet . The British Medical Association currently supports the introduction of legislation, but this is opposed by the Transport and Health Study Group. Whether or not the position on mandatory laws for cycle helmets in the UK will change in the future may well depend on reaction following the recent publication of the ‘Health on the Move 2’ report .
Historically, Australia has taken the lead Internationally on compulsory cycle helmet laws which have been enforced there since 1990, with New Zealand following suit in 1994. Read more about issues related to cycle helmets in Australia and Internationally on this interesting Australian website.
A recent bmj.com poll on the compulsory wearing of helmets by adult cyclists resulted in 68% of respondents (n=1439) voting no to the idea of mandatory wearing of helmets. The BMJ blog led to a lively debate on the topic. Despite the controversy, I for one will continue to wear my cycle helmet whilst cycling on the roads.
Do you think that there should be world-wide mandatory legislation for cycle helmet wear for road cyclists? CJSM would like to hear your thoughts on this – feel free to post your comments on the blog.
Vote on our quick poll on the issue on our website front page here.
(Pictures from mIKL194FV and AFP)