Over 1 million U.S. children and teens — many of them male — have broken bones and fractured their skulls in bicycle injuries over the past 20 years, according to new research that brought together two decades of data.
Boys aged 10 to 15 were particularly at risk. Nearly 87% of kids with skull fractures were not wearing helmets. More than 65,000 children were injured in biking accidents involving motor vehicles, according to the analysis, despite efforts to make biking on roadways safer.
“The results of our study suggest that continued efforts teaching road safety and promoting helmet use should be targeted towards all children, but with additional efforts being directed towards the most affected population, namely 10- to 15-year-old boys,” said researcher Dr. J. Todd Lawrence, of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Municipalities should continue to evaluate traffic patterns on their local roads to improve bike safety for children.”
In the study, Lawrence's team analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database for the years 2001 through 2020, looking for patients 18 and younger who were treated at U.S. emergency departments for bicycle-related fractures.
The investigators found an average of 50,975 fractures annually. About 71% of patients were male.
For the most part, fractures did decrease over the two decades. They increased in 2020, which was consistent with other reports of a significant increase in injuries during the early part of the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders were in effect and school and summer camps were canceled.
The findings are scheduled to be presented Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“Given the results of our study, we recommend targeting bicycle safety efforts toward the most affected populations, largely 10- to 15-year-old boys,” researcher William Huffman, a medical student at CHOP, said in an AAP news release. “Teaching road and helmet safety for bicycle riders is paramount to keeping children safe.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation has more on bicycle safety.
SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 7, 2022