Severity and patterns of injury in helmeted vs. non-helmeted motorcyclists in a rural state

Document Type


Publication Date



Trauma & Acute Care Surgery

Journal Title

Journal of Safety Research

MeSH Headings

Accidents, Traffic (mortality, statistics & numerical data); Adult; Age Distribution; Craniocerebral Trauma (epidemiology); Female; Head Protective Devices (statistics & numerical data); Hospitalization (statistics & numerical data); Humans; Incidence; Male; Middle Aged; Motorcycles (statistics & numerical data); Registries; Respiration, Artificial; Retrospective Studies; Rural Population (statistics & numerical data); Severity of Illness Index; Sex Distribution; Socioeconomic Factors; Trauma Centers (statistics & numerical data)


INTRODUCTION: Under current law in our rural state, there is no universal requirement for motorcyclists to wear helmets. Roughly 500 motorcycle crashes are reported by the state each year and only a fraction of those riders wear helmets. We sought to determine the difference in injury patterns and severity in helmeted versus non-helmeted riders. METHODS: Retrospective review (2014-2018) of a single level 1 trauma center's registry was done for subjects admitted after a motorcycle collision. Demographic, injury and patient outcome data were collected. Patients were stratified by helmet use (n = 81), no helmet use (n = 144), and unknown helmet use (n = 194). Statistical analysis used Student's t-test or Pearson's χp-value ≤0.05 as significant. State Department of Transportation data registry for state level mortality and collision incidence over the same time period was also obtained. RESULTS: Of the 2,022 state-reported motorcycle collisions, 419 individuals admitted to our trauma center were analyzed (21% capture). State-reported field fatality rate regardless of helmet use was 4%. Our inpatient mortality rate was 2% with no differences between helmet uses. Helmeted riders were found to have significantly fewer head and face injuries, higher GCS, lower face, neck, thorax and abdomen AIS, fewer required mechanical ventilation, shorter ICU length of stay, and had a greater number of upper extremity injuries and higher upper extremity AIS. CONCLUSIONS: Helmeted motorcyclists have fewer head, face, and cervical spine injuries, and lower injury severities: GCS and face, neck, thorax, abdomen AIS. Helmeted riders had significantly less mechanical ventilation requirement and shorter ICU stays. Non-helmeted riders sustained worse injuries. Practical Applications: Helmets provide safety and motorcycle riders have a 34-fold higher risk of death following a crash. Evaluating injury severities and patterns in motorcycle crash victims in a rural state with no helmet laws may provide insight into changing current legislation.

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