Traditional bicycle helmets increase the risk of broken jaw, says study

A new study from the Hannover Medical School has concluded that the traditional bicycle helmet may actually increase the incidence of a fractured jaw in a fall.

Analysing crash data from some 5,350 bicycle crashes gathered between 1999 and 2011, the researchers found that a helmet presented no significant change in mid-face fractures (nasal bone, the orbital bone, the zygomatic bone, and the maxilla), yet the mandibular (jawline) had a rate of fracture seemingly enhanced by the rider’s helmet. Around 8% of crashes saw the rider experience a fractured mandibular.

Though a broken jaw may seem a good compromise for a potential worse injury, the authors demonstrated that speed plays a crucial part in determining the likelihood of injury. In all patients with facial fractures a collision of 23.2 km/h was the mean speed.

Furthermore, a significant association was found between the patient’s age and the incidence of a fracture with an increase of fractures in the elderly.

In its conclusion, the study offers: “Higher age of cyclists and increasing speed of the accident opponent significantly increase the likelihood of sustaining facial fractures. The use of bicycle helmets does not significantly reduce the incidence of mid-facial fractures, while being correlated with an even increased incidence of mandibular fractures.”

To read the study in full, see here.