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Do motorcycle helmets protect you against cervical neck injuries?

While most of us think that motorcycle helmets protect riders from head and neck injuries, researchers in the past have suggested that helmets put riders at a higher risk of fracturing their cervical vertebrae or suffering other spine injuries when they wear them. Now, however, researchers who recently published a study in the Journal of Neurosurgery note that helmets are more critical to preventing cervical injuries than previously thought.

Data previously published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration captured how 1,859 motorcyclists survived crashes in 2016 because they wore helmets. They also reported that 802 people who died could have been saved had they worn them that year.

Too few motorcyclists in Columbus, in other parts of Ohio and across the country wear helmets, even if they're required to do so under the law.

While many motorcyclists have heard that they can minimize their risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury by wearing a helmet, riders often think that no harm will come their way. There are other reasons motorcyclists don't wear helmets too.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison, a Level 1 trauma center, polled motorcyclists about their motivation to wear a helmet or leave it at home. Many said that helmets limited their vision or were too restrictive. Others cited fears that wearing one would actually cause a cervical spine injury (CSI).

After the study's authors delved further into research that's been done on motorcycle helmets, they found no evidence that helmets threaten a rider's cervical spine. Instead, out of the 1,000 cases they reviewed, 15.4 percent of those who suffered CSIs weren't wearing helmets when they had their accidents. This is more than double the 7.4 percent of helmeted bikers who suffered the same fate.

Bikers who didn't wear helmets also suffered 1.9 percent more ligament injuries and 10.8 percent more cervical spine fractures than those who donned them. Other injuries such as cord contusion, cervical strain and nerve root injury were similar whether motorcyclists wore helmets or not.

Past studies have highlighted how helmets protect more than a motorcyclist's cervical spine. However, a faulty helmet can be just as bad as no helmet at all. If you've suffered a traumatic brain or neck injury because your motorcycle helmet failed you, it would be wise to get more information about the legal options that are available to you.

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