Traumatic Brain Injuries Pose Special Threat to Bicyclists

Nearly half of all traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are caused by motor vehicle accidents. The injuries occur when a sudden trauma, such as an impact with a hard object, causes damage to the brain. The impact often causes the brain to ricochet inside the skull, meaning that the damage usually extends far beyond the area where the initial impact occurred.

Traumatic brain injuries are especially troubling — not only do they cause pain and discomfort, but they often affect the way victims think, feel and behave. Although people with TBI may not look injured on the outside, many experience significant brain damage and may never regain normal functioning.

There are three main categories of TBI — mild, moderate and severe. Mild traumatic brain injuries generally result in symptoms such headache, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, lethargy and trouble concentrating. Although victims will require some medical care and observation, they usually fully recover.

Approximately 25 percent of TBI victims will experience moderate or severe injuries that can be significantly disabling. About half of these victims will require surgery to remove or repair ruptured blood vessels or damaged brain tissue. In addition to the symptoms suffered by victims of mild TBI, many will also experience cognitive problems such as trouble with thinking, memory or reasoning abilities. They will also usually have communications problems and difficulty processing senses such as sight, hearing, touch and smell.

Some moderate and severe cases will eventually develop a condition called post-concussion syndrome. This is marked by long-term changes in cognitive functioning and personality changes such as depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior and inappropriate social conduct.

Bikers Can Reduce Risk by Always Wearing a Helmet

Victims of bicycle accidents are more likely to experience TBI simply because they aren’t surrounded by the protective cocoon a car provides. However, bicyclists can greatly reduce their risk of experiencing a traumatic brain injury by always wearing a properly-fitting helmet.

Georgia law requires all bicyclists under the age of 16 to wear a helmet, but it doesn’t extend this requirement to adults. Still, for safety reasons, bicyclists of all ages are wise to consider helmets a mandatory accessory.

Experts recommend choosing a helmet that fits snugly, but not tightly. Helmets should touch all sides of the wearer’s head and the chin strap should sit flush against the skin. Bikers should avoid helmets that have too many vents, “aerodynamic” or squared-off shapes or that have rigid visors that could snag or shatter in a fall. Experts also recommend choosing a bright color to increase visibility.