The number of cycling-related head injuries has dropped significantly over the last decade, according to new national statistics, and officials are crediting a growing use of helmets.
While the number of hospital admissions due to cycling injuries across Canada remained stable between 2001-02 and 2009-10, the number attributed to head injuries fell by 27 per cent, according to new data released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
“It intuitively makes sense. If you have something to protect your head you are less likely to have an injury,” said Greg Webster, director of primary health care information at CIHI.
There were 4,325 cycling-related injuries in 2009-10, compared to 4,332 eight years earlier. Meantime, the number of cycling-related head injuries stood at 665 last year, compared to 907 in 2001-2002.
Only about one in four of the overall cycling-related hospitalizations involved a collision with a motor vehicle
“For three out of four, something else is going on. It could be just a crash on a trail or a collision with another cyclist or a pedestrian,” Webster said.
While the numbers point to a positive trend, they also show the message about helmets hasn’t reached some. Of those who still ended up in hospital trauma units because of head injuries, 78 per cent were not wearing helmets.
Cycling injuries account for half of all hospital admissions related to summer sports and recreational activities. And close to half of all cycling injuries occur in June, July and August.
CIHI purposely released statistics on wheel- and water-related injuries in advance of the August civil holiday long weekend to remind Canadians that summer is peak season for such misadventure.
“For all of these injuries we no longer use the term accidents. They are not accidents and things that are inevitable and should happen. People are making decisions that either increase or reduce their risk of having an injury,” Webster said.
“So it is really about individuals monitoring their behaviour. For any of these activities, obviously alcohol shouldn’t be involved. They need to pay attention to the rules, use the right safety equipment, not be distracted by cellphone or other things and really pay attention,” he added.
Overall, there is an average of 194 deaths in Canada every summer from activities such as motor vehicle collisions, all-terrain vehicle collisions, cycling, boating and swimming.
The number of serious injuries involving ATVs is growing faster than for any other type of activity. In 2009-10, there were 3,386 hospitalizations for ATV injuries across the country, a 31 per cent increase over eight years. Those at highest risk were young men, aged 15 to 24.
Webster believes this number is on the rise because more people are using the recreational vehicles.
Motor vehicle collisions still represent the second most frequent cause of injury, second only to falls, accounting for 18,964 hospitalizations in 2009-10. Still, the number dropped by a significant 21 per cent from eight years earlier.
The number of water-related injuries has remained stable since 2001-2002, with 331 injuries occurring in 2009-2010.
-- Teresa Boyle, Staff Reporter