Do Bicycle Helmets Prevent Head Injury?

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You must have heard this advice numerous times: Wear a helmet to protect your head when riding a bike. This component is supposed to shield your forehead and other areas from scratches while minimizing the risk of concussions. However, do bicycle helmets prevent head injury?

Wearing a helmet properly can cut the risk of injury in half and reduce the odds of a significant injury. We’ll analyze the effectiveness of helmets and provide a few tips to increase safety during your adventures.

Do Bicycle Helmets Prevent Head Injury? Ending the Discussion

Many people are skeptical about the effectiveness of bicycle helmets. They believe these riding accessories can’t protect them from head injuries.

However, the scientific community begs to differ. Various studies have proven that helmets indeed lower the risk of head injury.

For instance, this 2018 study found that helmets can reduce head injury by nearly 50%. They also lower the risk of severe head injury by 60%, face injury by almost 23%, and traumatic brain injury by 53%.

Therefore, there’s no denying that bicycle helmets work.

What Happens if You Don’t Wear a Bicycle Helmet?

When you hit your head in an accident, you can sustain various head injuries if you don’t wear a helmet. Here are the most common ones.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

As the name suggests, this brain injury is usually caused by traumatic events like bicycle accidents. It occurs typically from jolts or blows to your head. Another culprit is the brain abruptly shaking to the front or back of your skull, which can happen when falling from a bike.

A TBI can trigger cognitive, behavioral, and physical problems. It can also result in long-term or even permanent changes in severe cases. TBI is a somewhat broad term that also covers all the following entries.

Skull Fracture

Your skull is strong, but some impacts are too powerful. Sometimes, it might not endure the impact generated by falling from your bicycle. In addition, the symptoms may not manifest themselves immediately, so monitoring your condition after the crash is essential.

Symptoms of a skull fracture require urgent medical attention to prevent permanent damage, deterioration, or death.


Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury often caused by bicycle accidents. While they’re typically not as serious as other types, the complications can be severe. Furthermore, the symptoms can last indefinitely in severe cases, like with any other TBI.

Penetrating Head Injuries

Any object penetrating your skull can damage the brain, no matter how small. Penetrating head injuries are easy to spot, but they are life-threatening conditions that require urgent care.

Diffuse Axonal Injury

This closed-head injury is caused by forceful head rotation or shaking. Cyclists can easily sustain it without hitting the head. For instance, crossing large obstacles at high speeds can make your brain move violently within the skull.

As a result, axons (neurons that transmit electrical signals) snap and prevent natural brain connections. This can lead to short-term symptoms in milder cases but more often cause a coma, vegetative state, and death.

Wearing a helmet can drastically reduce the chances of a TBI. By extension, it decreases the risk of many unpleasant and painful symptoms:

  • Headaches – Head injuries caused by cycling accidents typically lead to continuous head pain. These headaches can range from mild to throbbing, depending on your trauma. You should visit a doctor if it persists.
  • Nausea – Cyclists with head injuries often need time to heal the parts of the brain that control balance. During this period, they may experience recurring nausea.
  • Loss of consciousness – If you fall from your bike or hit a tree in the middle of your ride, you can lose consciousness immediately after the impact. This can also happen a few moments after the accident.
  • Blurred vision – This and many other vision problems are a common effect of not wearing helmets during cycling accidents.
  • Sleep problems – Head trauma can be recognized by sleep problems, including insomnia.
  • Loss of balance – As previously indicated, the sections of the brain that maintain balance can get damaged in a cycling crash. The easiest way to tell if you have this problem is to see if you have difficulty walking.
  • Hearing issues – You may develop consistent ringing in your ears after a fall or collision, called tinnitus. It can aggravate insomnia and many other conditions.
  • Behavioral changes or mood swings – If you suffer a head injury due to your lack of a helmet, you can struggle with mood swings, anxiety, and depression after the crash. These can last for quite a while, so seek medical attention if you notice them.
  • Memory problems – Common problems associated with cycling head injuries include amnesia, difficulty memorizing things, and loss of memory.

Depending on the severity and type of your head injury, the symptoms can last a couple of hours, days, months, or years. Some can even leave a permanent mark if the trauma is treated improperly.

The simplest way to help prevent the conditions is to wear a helmet.

Falling from a bike

Why Else Should You Wear a Bicycle Helmet?

The above injuries should be enough to persuade you to wear a helmet whenever you ride your bicycle. However, there are a few other reasons you should always hit the road with this all-important accessory.

Drivers Can See You More Easily

Like most casual cyclists, you probably ride your bike in urban areas. However, whether you’re commuting or enjoying your hobby, riding near vehicles adds additional danger.

In fact, around 70% of all fatal crashes take place in urban zones. This means you need to ensure motorists see you when you’re crossing their lanes. The best way to do so and minimize the risk of collision is to wear a helmet.

Helmets come in different shapes and sizes, but more importantly, you can find them in many colors. There are numerous models in vibrant or neon hues that drivers can easily notice in most conditions.

While they’re not as appealing as sleek models with muted colors, they ensure motorists see you on time when you’re on the road. Additionally, you can add reflective tape or a headlamp to further improve safety.

Many states have laws that forbid cyclists under 18 from cycling without helmets. Consequently, children riding outdoors without helmets can earn a ticket for their parents. Although the risk of injury is more dramatic, the chances of losing money is another reason you should always wear a helmet.

The laws currently apply to children only, but they shouldn’t be ignored by adults. Deaths among cyclists 20 or younger have reduced by nearly 90% in the last forty years, but fatalities in older groups have tripled. It’s easy to determine the culprit – adults assume they’ve outgrown their helmets, so they think they’re safe without them.

Unfortunately, the reality is entirely the opposite. Adults can sustain as severe, if not more severe, injuries as children. That’s why it’s always a good idea to wear a helmet.

Stay on the Safe Side and Listen to Experts

Due to all these science-based facts, you’ll no longer wonder: do bicycle helmets prevent head injury? They go a long way in lowering the risk of injury and allow you to avoid the worst outcomes. However, you shouldn’t be overly reliant on them.

The key to preventing accidents is to ride at an appropriate speed and maintain a distance from other traffic. Also, avoid trips in inclement weather if you’re not experienced.

If you sustain a head injury, listen to your doctor. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, so you’ll need to be patient. Follow the prescribed treatment, and don’t return to school or work until your doctor says so.