Aging Well
Health & Fitness
Injury Prevention & Treatment
Senior Health

Bicycle Injuries and Older Riders

In recent years, the incidence of bicycle-related injuries has more than doubled, according to a new study led by researchers from UC San Francisco.

The researchers used a national injury surveillance database to study trends in bicycle injuries from 1998 to 2013. They found that the rate of hospital admissions associated with bicycle injuries more than doubled during that timeframe, especially with head and torso injuries.

And many serious injuries happened to riders over 45: Altogether, the proportion of injuries occurring to riders above age 45 rose 81 percent, from 23 percent to 42 percent, the authors said, and similarly the proportion of hospital admissions to older riders increased 66 percent, from 39 percent to 65 percent.

The results, based on the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“These injuries were not only bad enough to bring riders to the emergency room, but the patients had to be admitted for further care,” said senior author Benjamin Breyer, MD, MAS, associate professor of urology at UCSF and chief of urology at UCSF partner hospital San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “If you take typical 25-year-olds and 60-year-olds, if they have a similar crash, it’s more likely the older person will have more severe injuries.”

According to a news release from UCSF, urban cycling has become increasingly popular in recent years and this trend has occurred while the U.S. shifts to an older demographic.

In the new study, the researchers found that the percentage of injured cyclists with head injuries rose from 10 percent to 16 percent. Approximately two thirds of the total injuries occurred among men, the authors said, and there was “no significant change in sex ratio over time.”

“These injury trends likely reflect the trends in overall bicycle ridership in the United States in which multiple sources show an increase in ridership in adults older than 45 years,” the authors said. “Other possible factors … include an increase in street accidents and an increase in sport cycling associated with faster speeds.”

The investigators emphasized that safer riding practices are needed, as well as better infrastructure. They urged cyclists to use appropriate safety gear, including helmets, and to follow the rules of the road.”

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