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Young Motorcycle Riders Suffering More Brain Injuries
Date:11/19/2010

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- As more young people ride motorcycles without wearing helmets in the United States, more serious head injuries and long-term disabilities from crashes are creating huge medical costs, two new companion studies show.

In 2006, about 25 percent of all traumatic brain injuries sustained in motorcycle crashes involving 12- to 20-year-olds resulted in long-term disabilities, said study author Harold Weiss. And patients with serious head injuries were at least 10 times more likely to die in the hospital than patients without serious head injuries.

One study looked at the number of head injuries among young motorcyclists and the medical costs; the other looked at the impact of laws requiring helmet use for motorcycle riders, which vary from state to state. Age-specific helmet use laws were instituted in many states after mandatory laws for all ages were abandoned years ago.

"We know from several previous studies that there is a substantial decrease in youth wearing helmets when universal helmet laws are changed to youth-only laws," said Weiss, director of the injury prevention research unit at the Dunedin School of Medicine, New Zealand. He was at the University of Pittsburgh when he conducted the research.

Using hospital discharge data from 38 states from 2005 to 2007, the study found that motorcycle crashes were the reason for 3 percent of all injuries requiring hospitalization among 12- to 20-year-olds in the United States in 2006.

One-third of the 5,662 motorcycle crash victims under age 21 who were hospitalized that year sustained traumatic head injuries, and 91 died.

About half of those injured or killed were between the ages of 18 and 20 and 90 percent were boys, the study found.

The findings, published online Nov. 15 in Pediatrics, also showed that head injuries led to longer hospital stays and higher medica
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