Washington: Wearing a helmet may significantly reduce the risk of cervical spine injury during motorcycle crashes, a study has found.
Despite claims that helmets do not protect the cervical spine during a motorcycle crash and may even increase the risk of injury, researchers found that helmet use lowers the likelihood of cervical spine injury (CSI), particularly fractures of the cervical vertebrae.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in the US reviewed the charts of 1,061 patients who had been injured in motorcycle crashes and treated at a trauma center in Wisconsin between January 1, 2010, and January 1, 2015.
Of those patients, 323 (30.4 percent) were wearing helmets at the time of the crash and 738 (69.6 percent) were not, according to the study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.
Wisconsin law does not require all riders to wear a helmet.
At least one CSI was sustained by 7.4 percent of the riders wearing a helmet and 15.4 percent of those not wearing one.
This difference in percentages is statistically significant, researchers said.
Cervical spine fractures occurred more often in patients who were not wearing helmets (10.8 percent compared to 4.6 percent), as did ligament injuries (1.9 percent compared with 0.3 percent).
There were no significant differences between groups with respect to other types of cervical spine injuries that were sustained: nerve root injury, cervical strain, or cord contusion.
Study author Paul S Page and colleagues found that helmet use is associated with a significantly reduced likelihood of sustaining a CSI during a motorcycle crash, particularly fractures of the cervical vertebrae.
Although the study population is small, the researchers believe the results provide additional evidence in support of wearing helmets to prevent severe injury in motorcycle crashes.
"Our study suggests that wearing a motorcycle helmet is a reasonable way to limit the risk of injury to the cervical spine in a motorcycle crash," said Nathaniel P Brooks, co-author of the study.