Argument on the effectiveness of bike helmets continues

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published an article that gives substance to concerns about cycle helmets.

Australian statistician Dr Dorothy Robinson argues that there is no evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of cycle helmets that there has been any benefit to public health. Robinson reviewed data before and after helmet legislation in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and believes helmet laws discourage cycling and produce no obvious response in the number of head injuries. She says:
“This contradiction may be due to risk compensation, incorrect helmet wearing, reduced safety in numbers (injury rates per cyclist are lower when more people cycle), or bias in case control studies.” She suggests that helmet laws are counterproductive and that governments should instead focus on measures that lead to clear drops in casualties, such as campaigns to against speeding, drink-driving, and failure to obey road rules. “Helmet laws would be counter productive if they discouraged cycling and increased car use,” says Robinson. “Wearing helmets may also encourage cyclists to take more risks, or motorists to take less care when they encounter cyclists.”
The Journal also published a counter-opinion by four academics who have long pressed for helmet laws. The crux of their argument is that it doesn’t matter if helmet laws discourage cycling (which, for the first time, that admit takes place) because people may take other forms of exercise instead, although they offer no evidence that this occurs.
‘Rapid Responses’ now appearing on the BMJ website suggest that Robinson’s arguments are more convincing and give much other evidence in support.

Another study called The Potential for Cycle Helmets to Prevent Injury – Review . D.Hynd UK 2009 looks at the effectiveness of helmets as such and concludes that helmets protect the head…at a first glance over the 122 pages it does not seem to address the impact of helmets on cycling participation.  I will look at the report in more detail at some later stage.

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