Protecting Your Head
iPhoneOgraphy – 05 Oct 2016 (Day 279/366)
A motorcycle helmet is a type of helmet used by motorcycle riders. The primary goal of a motorcycle helmet is motorcycle safety – to protect the rider’s head during impact, thus preventing or reducing head injury and saving the rider’s life. Some helmets provide additional conveniences, such as ventilation, face shields, ear protection, intercom etc.
Motorcyclists are at high risk in traffic crashes. A 2008 systematic review examined studies on motorcycle riders who had crashed and looked at helmet use as an intervention. The review concluded that helmets reduce the risk of head injury by around 69% and death by around 42%. Although it was once speculated that wearing a motorcycle helmet increased neck and spinal injuries in a crash, recent evidence has shown the opposite to be the case, that helmets protect against Cervical spine injury, and that an often-cited small study dating to the mid-1980s, “used flawed statistical reasoning”.
The origins of the crash helmet date back to the Brooklands race track in early 1914 where the medical officer, a Dr Eric Gardner, noticed he was seeing a motor cyclist with head injuries about every 2 weeks. He got a Mr Moss of Bethnal Green to make canvas and shellac helmets stiff enough to stand a heavy blow and smooth enough to glance off any projections it encountered. He presented the design to the Auto-Cycle Union where it was initially condemned, but they later converted to the idea and made them compulsory for the 1914 Isle of Man TT races, although there was resistance from riders. Gardner took 94 of these helmets with him to the Isle of Man, and one rider who hit a gate with a glancing blow was saved by the helmet. Dr Gardner received a letter later from the Isle of Man medical officer stating that after the T.T. they normally had “several interesting concussion cases” but that in 1914 there was none.
In May 1935, T.E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia) had a crash on a Brough Superior SS100 on a narrow road near his cottage near Wareham. The accident occurred because a dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on bicycles. Swerving to avoid them, Lawrence lost control and was thrown over the handlebars. He was not wearing a helmet, and suffered serious head injuries which left him in a coma; he died after six days in hospital. One of the doctors attending him was Hugh Cairns, a neurosurgeon, who after Lawrence’s death began a long study of what he saw as the unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle despatch riders through head injuries. Cairns’ research led to the increased use of crash helmets by both military and civilian motorcyclists.