ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite a
California bike helmet mandate, only 11 percent of Los Angeles County children
treated for bike-related injuries were wearing a helmet, according to an
abstract presented Oct. 26 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National
Conference and Exhibition in Orlando. Specifically, children older than age 12,
and low-income and minority children were less likely to wear a bike helmet.
According to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 33 million children
ride bicycles for nearly 10 billion hours each year. Unfortunately, bicycle
crashes and bicycle-related head injuries cause 150,000 emergency department
visits and nearly 400 deaths each year.
In the abstract,
“Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities in the Use of Helmets in Children
Involved in Bicycle Accidents,” researchers reviewed the records of all
pediatric patients involved in bicycle-related accidents from the Los Angeles
County database between 2006 and 2011. The information included helmet use,
age, gender, insurance status and race/ethnicity. Further analysis sought to
determine whether helmet use was associated with the need for emergency
surgery, morbidity, mortality and length of hospital stay.
There were 1,248 children
involved in bicycle-related accidents in Los Angeles County. The median age of
these children was 13; 64 percent were male. Overall, 11.3 percent of patients
wore helmets, with some ethnic-based differences: 35.2 percent of white
children wore helmets, compared to 7 percent of Asian children, 6 percent of
black children, and 4 percent of Hispanic children. Researchers also observed differences based
on insurance coverage, with 15.2 percent of children with private insurance
coverage and 7.6 percent of children with public insurance wearing helmets at
the time of injury. Children over age 12 were less likely to wear a helmet.
Overall, 5.9 percent of the
injured children required emergency surgery, and 34.1 percent of the children
returned to their pre-injury capacity. The mortality rate was 0.7 percent. Of
the nine patients who died, eight were not wearing a helmet.
“Our study highlights the
need to target minority groups, older children, and those with lower
socioeconomic status when implementing bicycle safety programs in Los Angeles
County,” said study author Veronica F. Sullins, MD.
Regional studies highlighting
racial or ethnic and socioeconomic differences may help identify at-risk
populations within specific communities, allowing these communities to more
effectively use resources, said Dr. Sullins.
“Children and adolescents
have the highest rate of unintentional injury and therefore should be a high
priority target population for injury-prevention programs,” Dr. Sullins said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization
of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and
pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being
of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit