E-Bike Head Injuries Rise As Helmet Use Falls

Recent findings indicate a surge in e-bike-related injuries. This has become a pressing concern. It has led to a significant influx of Americans requiring hospitalization in recent years.

Notably, electronic bicycle accidents have taken a particularly heavy toll on riders’ heads, especially among those who opted not to wear helmets. Research published in JAMA Surgery unveils a troubling trend. Helmet usage declined by nearly 6 percent annually from 2017 to 2022. Conversely, the number of e-bike riders seeking medical care for head injuries surged dramatically. In 2022 alone, cases skyrocketed by 49-fold to nearly 8,000.

Dr. Laura Goodman, a pediatric surgeon and trauma medical director at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, emphasizes the severity of the situation. She labels it a significant public health issue. Meanwhile, Dr. Benjamin Breyer, the senior author from the University of California, San Francisco, stresses not discouraging e-bike use, recognizing their environmental and health benefits. However, he advocates for increased helmet adoption and societal measures to enhance road safety and prevent such injuries.

Despite the alarming statistics, only 44% of injured e-bike riders were found to have been wearing helmets. Researchers analyzed NEISS data. They estimated that approximately 46,000 people sought emergency care for e-bike injuries. This spanned children and adults. It occurred from 2017 to 2022. This marked a substantial increase in hospitalizations.

As e-bikes gain popularity for both recreation and commuting purposes, the number of imports surged, from 437,000 in 2020 to over 1.1 million in 2022. Yet, increased usage led to more accidents, including fatalities like Molly Steinsapir, despite helmet use.

The study emphasizes helmets’ effectiveness in reducing e-bike head injuries, amid rising trauma and declining helmet use. Experts emphasize the urgent need for comprehensive measures. This is due to the higher severity of traumatic brain injuries in e-bicyclists compared to traditional cyclists.

Dr. Goodman emphasizes the need for education and training, especially for young riders unaware of e-bike risks. While e-bikes are not classified as motor vehicles under U.S. law, there is a patchwork of regulations governing their use, including helmet requirements, adding further complexity to the issue.

Experts advise urban planning changes, strict helmet laws, alcohol avoidance, and e-bike riding lessons to address speed and helmet-related risks. Ultimately, addressing the rise in e-bike injuries demands collaborative efforts from policymakers, educators, parents, and riders to ensure road safety for everyone.

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