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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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A Trauma Surgeon's View Of Motorcycles

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Pay a visit to this article posted at Where’s The Outrage before you jump on your motorcycle. In the full article the trauma surgeon author includes some specific medical case stories and a helpful list of steps to take to reduce the risk of serious injury or death.

Don’t Underestimate the dangers of Motorcycles

Over the last couple of weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about motorcycles and motorcycle safety here in Asheville and nationwide. As a trauma surgeon, I thought that my input could be useful.

For some numbers, in the year 2005, Mission Hospital admitted 176 motorcycle crash victims. Approximately one-third of these patients required an ICU stay with the range from a couple of hours to 53 days. Just over 60 percent of the patients wore helmets. The overall length of stay for all motorcycle crash victims was twice that of our general trauma population. The median hospital charge was over $17,000.

Since mandatory helmet laws have been repealed in many states, this has given trauma surgeons the unique opportunity to study if helmets really make a difference in survival. A recent study in Michigan compared the outcome of patients before the helmet law was repealed to those patients who presented after. The outcome was striking. The number of significant brain injuries dramatically increased and the severity of brain injury also increased. The length of stay in the hospital and in the intensive care unit was longer in those patients without helmets. Significantly more patients who were not wearing helmets required prolonged rehabilitation after their hospitalization. Finally, as expected, the cost of care was significantly more for those patients who did not wear helmets. The conclusion of this study and many others was the helmets protect the brain and save lives.

Motorcycles provide almost no protection to the rider. Therefore, even minor motorcycle crashes can cause significant injuries. Deep abrasions resulting from a fall and skidding on concrete are considered a relatively “minor” injury. Patients who have these injuries will attest that they are not minor. As a matter of fact, they cause major pain and disability. They cause multiple trips to the operating room. Some of these abrasions require skin grafting in order for them to heal.

Motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Enthusiasts are extremely vulnerable to bad automobile drivers. Someone can easily pull out of a “hidden” mountain road or stop suddenly. There is very little that even the most extremely conscientious motorcycle rider can do.