"Flanner & Buchanan Funeral Centers gave away 1000 bicycle helmets at last week's Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration in an effort to prevent children from becoming customers," said a report in the Indy Star newspaper of Indiana. The firm does not give away safety products for child passengers in cars, a measure that would save thousands more lives... PLUS: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons issues press release claiming "a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by 95 percent."

Funeral firm hands out free bicycle helmets

Becky Borel, family service adviser for the firm told the Indy Star: "We don’t want to have to be burying young children. That’s why the company has been such an advocate for these helmets."

The company has been giving away bicycle helmets since 1999

"I think parents are just not aware of the danger," Serifatu Walton, injury prevention coordinator for the Marion County Health Department, told the US newspaper.

"Sometimes it’s not the child who has made the error; it might be another biker or a motorist."

Bicycle helmets are not designed to protect cyclists in collisions with cars. A study by the UK Transport Research Laboratory found that motorists drive closer to helmeted cyclists because there’s a perception that such cyclists would be "protected" in any car strike.


The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons issued a press release on 14th July containing a non-referenced, unclear statistic on the effectiveness of cycle helmets.

"Studies have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by 95 percent," states the press release.

95 percent? Even the most strident helmet papers (TR&T, 1989) gives an 88 percent brain injury reduction figure, subsequently revised downwards, and this figure is hotly disputed by academics around the world.

Helmet anti-compulisionist Guy Chapman said: "TR&T’s 1989 paper says that helmets reduce head injury by 85% and brain injury by 88%. Think long and hard about that. Do you genuinely believe that a polystyrene [helmet] is going to protect you better against brain injury than against a cut head?"

On his website, Chapman dissects the 88 percent claim.

"You can’t spend long looking into the subject of helmets without the figure 85% being mentioned. Just about every helmet promoter quotes either this or the accompanying figure from the same study, 88% of brain injuries. The latter should alert you straight away: how credible is it that a cycle helmet would be more effective against brain injury than against cuts and bruises? But that is what is claimed.

"One reason these figures are misleading is that the definition of head injury and brain injury is never stated by those quoting them. Head injury brings visions of unconsciousness and skull fractures, and brain injury raises the dreadful prospect of permanent intellectual disablement. In the studies, "head injuries" are mostly cuts requiring only dressing (if that), and the "brain injuries" are almost all simple concussions.

"[The 85 percent claim] is arrived at the figure by comparing injured "cases" (mainly black male working-class male youths riding alone on city streets) with entirely different "controls" (mainly white middle-class, slightly more female than male, riding with families on leisure bike trails) and attributing all the difference to helmet use.

"It assumed that the helmet wearing rate of the "control" group was typical for those street cyclists who were uninjured, whereas one of the authors had conducted street counts which showed this was not the case. Just substituting Rivara’s street counts for helmet use reduces the calculated benefit to zero within the limits of statistical error.

"It claimed reductions in parts of the head not covered by helmets, rather than recognising these as evidence of confounding factors within the data. It used very small numbers of cases.

"Using the same figures it can be shown that helmets prevent 75% of broken legs."



Getting a Handle on Cycling Safety

ROSEMONT, Ill., July 14: More and more children and adults are traveling the open roads on their bicycles for fun, transportation and fitness. As people take to the school yards, bike paths and neighborhood streets, the number of injuries caused by unsafe cycling rises.

"Bicycle riders of all age groups and levels of experience need to be concerned about safety," explained James H. Beaty, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and second vice president of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "Most cycling accidents are the result of falls, and occur close to home."

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in 2003, 1.3 million people were treated in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries, costing more than $32.5 billion in lost wages, pain and suffering, medical costs and other expenses. The most common cycling accidents involve colliding with a car or another bicycle; loss of control; entangling hands, feet or clothing in the bicycle; or feet slipping off the pedals.

Studies have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by 95 percent. "Wearing a properly fitting helmet is the single most important thing a cyclist can do to prevent injuries," Dr. Beaty added. "Parents should not buy a helmet that is too large for a child, thinking that he/she will ‘grow into’ it." The correct fit for cycling helmets is snug, but comfortable on the head. It should have a chin strap and buckles that stay securely fastened.

Cycling as regular, active recreation is one way to develop good exercise habits and improve fitness levels. To ensure an injury-free cycling for everyone, AAOS offers these bicycle safety tips:

— Always wear an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved

helmet. Make sure it fits snugly and does not obstruct your vision.

— Make certain the bicycle is the proper size for the rider. Consider

using training wheels for young and first-time riders.

— Ensure your bicycle is properly adjusted and well maintained. Replace

broken or missing parts.

— Avoid plastic pedals that can be slippery when wet.

— Wear bright fluorescent colors and avoid biking at night. If you have

to ride your bike at night, make sure you have rear reflectors and a

working headlight visible from 500 feet away.

— Stay alert and watch for obstacles in your path.

— Ride with traffic and be aware of traffic around you. Obey all rules of

the road – bicycles are vehicles, too.

— Don’t ride double, attempt stunts or go too fast.

— Avoid loose clothing and wear appropriate footwear. Use pant leg clips

to keep clothing grease-free and out of the bicycle chain.

— Wear knee, wrist and elbow pads to protect the bones and joints when


— Avoid riding on uneven or slippery surfaces. Handbrakes may not work

as well when wheels are wet and require more distance to stop.

Internet users can find additional physician-reviewed safety tips and injury prevention information in the Prevent Injuries America!(R) Program section of the Academy’s web site, http://www.aaos.org/ or http://www.orthoinfo.org/ , or call the Academy’s Public Service line at 800-824-BONES.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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