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According to new research published in a recent issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, there were 596,972 emergency department visits for bicycle-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) between 2009 to 2018. The highest rates were found for adult men and children aged 10 to 14 years.
In 2018, 857 adult bicyclists died from traffic-related crashes in the country, the highest number in two decades.
Using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program, Kelly Sarmiento, M.P.H., from the CDC in Atlanta, and her colleagues determined the incidence of emergency department visits for bicycle-related TBIs during the aforementioned time period. In their research, they also found there was a decrease by about half (48.7%) in the rate of emergency department visits for bicycle-related TBIs among children and a 5.5% decrease among adults.
During the 10-year study period, most of the patients who incurred a TBI (83%) were treated and released from the ED. The rate decrease among children aged 17 and younger (48.7%) was ninefold larger than that among adults (5.5%). From 2013 to 2018, a large overall decline occurred, resulting in an annual −9.8% decline. Also during the study period, the rate of ED visits for bicycle-related TBIs among males of all ages was three times higher than that among females.
The difference in the decrease might be associated with changes in the prevalence of bicycling (like more adults bicycling and fewer children bicycling, and more bicyclists using roadways to commute to work) and with the implementation of evidence-based policies and interventions by state and local communities, many of which focus on children, according to the CDC.
“Such interventions as increased driver compliance with traffic laws and helmet use among riders, improvements in bicycling infrastructure, and customized interventions for males and other groups at high risk might help reduce bicycle-related injuries,” the authors reportedly wrote. “Expanding implementation of effective bicycle safety interventions can help ensure that children and adults are afforded the benefits of bicycling while staying safe from injuries, including TBIs.”
According to the CDC, bicycling leads to the highest number of sport and recreation–related emergency department visits for TBIs in the U.S. Though most persons treated in an emergency department for a TBI have a good recovery, some can experience ongoing symptoms that have emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and academic sequelae. And because the activity continues to grow in popularity — especially in Los Angeles because of COVID-19 lockdowns, – examining the strategies that mitigate the risk for TBI is important.
Some examples of promising strategies include: building or improving roads with a focus on pedestrian and bicycling safety, such as adding physically protected bicycle lanes and intersections; increasing compliance with traffic laws, like reducing distracted driving; and increasing active bicycle lighting, such as equipping bicycles with lights that a bicyclist can turn on, to increase visibility of cyclists in dark conditions.