The November CJSM: A Discussion on the Mandatory Use of Bicycle Helmets

The November issue of CJSM has been out for a week, and I hope you’ve had a chance to look at our latest offering.  It is also our last offering for 2013 (CJSM is a bimonthly, publishing 6 times a year).  The next time the journal will hit your mailboxes and inboxes will be January 2014.

FIMS 2014

Quebec City, site of the XXXIII FIMS
World Congress of Sports Medicine
CJSM will be there: will you?

2014 promises to be a big year in sports and sports medicine.  The Winter Olympics take place in Sochi, Russia; the FIFA World Cup is in Brazil; and the Commonwealth Games are in Glasgow, Scotland.   On the sports medicine front, the Canadian Academy of Sports and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) hosts the FIMS 2014 World Congress of Sports Medicine in Quebec City, and earlier in the spring the AMSSM annual meeting takes place in the Big Easy.  And this brief listing, of course, merely scratches the surface of what is to come.

But before I get ahead of myself, best to hold on to the mantra, “Be Here Now,” and share with you a little of what’s in store when you delve into this month’s CJSM.

Headlining the November issue is CASEM’s position statement on the mandatory use of bicycle helmets.  This document is a revision of a previous statement made in 2002, and incorporates the medical evidence in support of such use that has accumulated over the last 10+ years.  There is an associated lead editorial by Murray Maitland, PhD that is definitely worth a read as well.

I was particularly interested in the CASEM offering at least in part because I am a regular bicycle commuter here in Columbus, Ohio who recently had his interest in such matters piqued after reading a provocative article in the NY Times:  “Is it OK to Kill Cyclists?”

That’s a rhetorical question mind you!

First having ensured the life insurance policy had been paid up, I then read through the CASEM statement, which packs a lot in two pages.  The statement surveys the field of what is known about the use of bicycle helmets and injury prevention, and then makes recommendations.  Some of the salient points I walked away with: 1) wearing a properly fitted helmet decreases head injuries by 63% to 88% in all ages of bicyclists; 2) introduction of legislation (i.e. not merely relying on education campaigns) is associated with a decreased injury rate and has not been shown to decrease ridership (importantly, as we seek to increase physical activity in our sedentary population); 3) youth populations are more likely to wear helmets where there is legislation that applies to riders of all ages as opposed to only 18 years and younger; 4) youth are more likely to wear helmets when cycling with an adult wearing a helmet (95%) than when cycling with an adult not wearing a helmet (41%).

The CASEM statement draws several conclusions from these data, but most importantly recommends “That all Provincial and Territorial governments should enact comprehensive legislation mandating that bicyclists of all ages wear helmets.”

I would concur with those recommendations, and I would love to hear your thoughts after reading the CASEM statement, either here in the comments section or on twitter @cjsmonline.  The CJSM executive editor, Chris Hughes, has written about this subject in a 2011 blog post, and notes that the associated poll of the readership taken at that time got more traffic than any other.  I’m hoping this month’s articles on the subject, and this blog post, encourages that same sort of commentary.

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My trusty steed has been known to fail me;
I’m happy to have a helmet on when riding it

My position on the matter (pro) is uncomplicated.  I think the data are clear and in favor of mandatory use of bicycle helmets:  mandatory legislation reduces serious injury; it encourages the most vulnerable (children) in the use of an injury prevention device; and it has not been shown to decrease ridership. Read more of this post

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