Since the partial repeal of Michigan’s universal helmet law in April 2012, the number of head injuries among motorcyclists in the state has risen by 14%, according to a recent study.

In addition, during the same period, physicians have also seen a shift in the type of head injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents. Injuries due to mild concussions fell 17%, while injuries due to skull fractures increased 38%.

The study—conducted by researchers from the CDC-funded University of Michigan Injury Center, as well as the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety—was published recently in the American Journal of Public Health.

In the study, the researchers compared statewide rates of helmet use, fatalities, and serious head injuries for the 12-month periods before and after the repeal, and included 7,235 riders involved in police-reported crashes and 1,094 riders hospitalized at trauma centers.

Both datasets included motorcycle operators or passengers who were 16 years of age or older and riding a motorcycle in Michigan and who were involved in either a police-reported motorcycle crash, or evaluated and treated at a Michigan trauma center for a traumatic injury between April 12, 2011, and April 12, 2013, states a media release from the University of Michigan Health System.

The researchers note that, following the repeal of the universal helmet law, helmet use dropped 24% among riders involved in crashes, and 27% among those seeking care at trauma centers. In addition, they found that motorcyclists who were not wearing a helmet in a crash had a fatality rate of 5.4%—nearly twice as high as the 2.8% rate for riders wearing a helmet.

That’s on top of the 14% increase in head injury rates overall, per the release.

Patrick Carter, MD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of emergency medicine in the U-M Injury Center, opines in the release that not wearing a helmet could double the odds of a fatality and the odds of a head injury among those injured in an accident or treated at a trauma center.

“Head injuries can have a devastating impact on the long-term health of motorcyclists and their families after a crash,” He says. “The 14 percent increase in head injuries observed in our study is consistent with the negative public health impact we have witnessed following similar repeals in other states.”

“This study provides important data that should be considered as part of the policy debate regarding the importance of universal helmet laws for preventing injury,” he concludes.

[Source(s): University of Michigan Health System, Science Daily]