Are bicycle helmets just clickbait for media outlets?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Please excuse my clickbait headline, it’s designed to make a point.

Another year and another misleading article from The Irish Times on cycling and helmets — the headline “Cycling the biggest activity for referrals to brain unit” is inaccurate because the research covered excludes pedestrians. Last time I checked, walking is an activity.

The research, titled ‘Sports & exercise related traumatic brain injury in the Republic of Ireland – The neurosurgical perspective‘ for some reason extracts cycling road traffic collisions and lumps them in with cycling sporting injuries without also looking at overall road traffic collisions.

Why isn’t walking included? And if we’re mixing sport and transport, will we also look at motoring and motorsport? Having poor or limited data isn’t a good reason to present limited research in isolation.

The conclusion of the paper states:

Our findings demonstrate that sport and exercise related TBI is associated with significant morbidity and mortality across a wide
variety of sporting activities in Ireland and maybe associated with a significant morbidity and mortality.

There’s no conclusions on helmet wearing. With the data and level of research provided such conclusions would be impossible. Yet with a limited data set the authors seem to keep trying to make that link.

Two of the cycling deaths mentioned in the article and were linked to collisions involving cars, which research indicates helmets have an even lower chance of being helpful.

The researchers note: “The current debate regarding helmet legislation should not be used in isolation but in conjunction with a concerted effort to significantly improved the cycling infrastructure.” Yet their paper is yet another hint at helmets which is a distraction to all-round cycling safety focused on preventing all types of collisions, including head injuries.

 

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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