Motorcycle passengers at high risk of brain injury

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Motorcycle passengers are less likely than drivers to wear helmets, a new study shows. And passengers are also more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in a crash.

The study involved nearly 86,000 people hurt in motorcycle crashes. All of them were injured between 2007 and 2010. Researchers divided them into two groups: passengers and drivers.

The drivers were almost all male. They were also more likely than the passengers to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash.

For both drivers and passengers, TBIs were the most common injury. But passengers had a higher rate of TBIs. Altogether 40 percent of them suffered TBIs compared to 36 percent of the drivers.

And even when they wore helmets, passengers were still more likely to be at risk. The rate of TBIs was still almost 36 percent for passengers versus about 31 percent for drivers.

Alcohol involved

For passengers and drivers alike, alcohol affected helmet use. Fewer than half of those in either group who were under the influence of alcohol wore helmets.

Helmet use was relatively low for both groups, the study found. But those who wore one were far less likely to suffer either a TBI or other head or neck injury. And wearing a helmet also reduced the severity of injuries that did occur.

Currently only 19 states have mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle riders. Given the study’s findings, those laws should be nationwide, the researchers advise.

The study results were published in JAMA Surgery.

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