Study shows motorcycle helmets reduce risk of neck and spine injuries

Five-year study looked at 1,061 patients

A five-year study conducted by three neurosurgeons from UW Health disproves theories that motorcycle helmets contribute to neck and spine injuries.

“There’s a bit of a myth that wearing helmets is actually dangerous to the cervical spine or dangerous to the neck in an accident,” said Dr. Nathaniel Brooks, a neurosurgeon and one of the authors of the study.

The study looked at 1,061 patients involved in motorcycle accidents and treated at a Level 1 trauma center. Of those patients, 738 were not wearing a motorcycle helmet at the time of the accident, while the remaining 323 were wearing a helmet.

“Patients who are not wearing helmets, about 11 percent of those patients will have some sort of neck or cervical spine injury. Whereas the patients who are wearing a helmet, it is about 4 percent,” said Dr. Brooks.

An analysis of the data also showed the neck and cervical spine injuries sustained by riders not wearing a helmet were more severe.

The findings reinforce advice given to riders at a motorcycle safety program conducted at Madison College.

“We try to take care of the myth, mystery and legend out of all the bad things that people tell me helmets might do,” says Jason Herheim, program director of the motorcycle safety program.

Herheim believes helmets are an important part of motorcycle safety, but says wearing protective clothing will also reduce risk of injury in the event of an accident.

For more information about Madison College’s motorcycle safety program, visit its website .