A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), indicates that bicycle injuries are on the rise, especially for adults. The JAMA study suggests what some recent high-profile stories have also indicated- that more adults, mostly middle-aged and older men, are riding bicycles and getting hurt on them.
Take, for instance, Secretary of State John Kerry. The 71-year-old was injured in May when he broke his leg after hitting a curb while biking in France. While his accident did not take place on U.S. soil, his story does appear to be part of a growing trend.
Since the 1990s, the total number of injuries and hospitalizations have risen, with riders over the age of 45 posting the greatest increase.
Urologist Benjamin Breyer and fellow researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, became intrigued about bicycle injuries after they witnessed more men seeking help for injuries such as urethral damage following bike accidents.
The researchers examined information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission collected on a regular basis from approximately 100 emergency rooms across the country. They compared data from 1998 and 1999 to 2012 and 2013, the last year for which data was available, and discovered that bike injuries increased 28%, from 96 to 123 per 100,000 adults. Body parts most often reported injured were arms and legs, and the number of head injuries steadily increased.
Bike injury hospitalizations over the study period increased 120%, from 5.1 to 11.2 per 100,000 adults. Over the course of the research period, the over 45 age group increased their share of bike injuries from 23% to 42%, as well as their injury-related hospitalizations, from 39% to 65%.
According to Breyer, the findings are explained by a well-substantiated rise in adult bike riding. More adults, especially middle-aged men, are biking for fun, exercise, and commuting. The fact that older people are more susceptible to serious injuries could account for the increase in hospitalizations. Beyer and his colleagues also cite a rise in popularity of high-speed sport biking as a reason for more injuries.
Beyer cautions people to not abandon cycling because of the increase in injuries. He still advocates biking as a great way to commute and stay in shape.
John Pucher, professor emeritus of urban planning at Rutgers University- New Brunswick, New Jersey agrees. He doesn’t believe that cycling has become inherently more dangerous. Pucher says there are simply more people biking, so naturally, you would expect to see a rise in the number of injuries. He cites data from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicating the number of bike trips increased from 3.3 million in 2004 to 4 million in 2009.
Communications manager for USA Cycling, Kevin Loughery says there are incredible health benefits associated with cycling, and as its popularity increases, his organization will continue to educate the public in an effort to reduce injuries.
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