Results of a recent study published by Hamad Trauma Center (HTC) at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) found that none of the patients admitted to the centre with serious head injury as a result of a bicycle crash were wearing helmets and that only 3% of patients with bicycle-related traumatic injuries (BRTI) were actually wearing helmets.

The study – ‘Bicycle-Related Traumatic Injury Hospitalizations: Six Years Descriptive Analysis in Qatar’ – was supported by the HMC Medical Research Center and recently published in the Journal of Injury and Violence Research. The study described the bicycle-related traumatic injuries among victims seen and treated at HTC between 2010 and 2015.

Majority of patients were young males under the age of 30. Most were from Nepal (17%), Qatar (16%), and Sri Lanka (13%). The most common mechanism of injury (87%) for adults was collision with another vehicle.

Younger victims, under the age of 20, were more likely to be injured in a fall rather than collision, according to the study. Almost half of all victims suffered a head injury and only 3% of all patients suffering from BRTI were wearing a bicycle helmet at the time of the incident. Because they were unprotected, many victims suffered severe injuries and more than 40% needed an operation or admission to the Intensive Care Unit.

According to Dr Husham Abdelrahman, Lead Author, Senior Consultant and Director of the Trauma Resuscitation Unit at HTC, to participate in safe and enjoyable bicycling, cyclists of all ages should follow safe riding habits – children and adults should always wear helmets whenever they cycle.

He said that experts from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that wearing a helmet is the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle and bicycle crashes.

Serious cycling injuries are very preventable if proper safety measures are taken. It is very important that cyclists use highly reflective or visible clothing and a certified helmet every time they take a bike journey.’

Dr Ayman El Menyar, co-author of the study, and Director of Clinical Research and Consultant at HTC, explained that injuries to cyclists are not the sole responsibility of the cyclist.

As a society, we must do our utmost to protect these vulnerable road users. Strict enforcement of distracted driving and mandatory bicycle helmet laws and the creation of more dedicated cyclist lanes or areas for recreational cyclists to practice their sport, will go a long way to reducing the number of unnecessary victims.’

The Hamad Injury Prevention Program of HTC is urging all cyclists to follow these safety recommendations using the mnemonic HELMET:

HELMET: Wear a properly fitting helmet to reduce serious head injuries.

EYE CONTACT: Making eye contact with motorists where possible will ensure that they have seen you, reducing the risk of collision with other vehicles.

LAWS: Obey traffic laws just like motorists. This means stopping at stop signs and obeying traffic lights. Do not ride while distracted by devices, including mobile phones or earphones.

MAKE SURE YOU ARE VISIBLE: Be visible by wearing bright colours during the day, reflective gear in low light conditions, and using head and tail lights at night.

ENVIRONMENT: Be aware of dangerous and changing road conditions and use designated bike lanes when available.

TWICE AND TURNING: Look twice before turning or crossing an intersection and know how to use your hands to signal if you are turning. When crossing a busy road, walk your bike through the intersection instead of riding it.