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J Trauma. 1995 Jul;39(1):29-33; discussion 34-5.

Injury prevention strategies to promote helmet use decrease severe head injuries at a level I trauma center.

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Department of Surgery, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.


Head injuries (HIs) remain a major contributor to trauma mortality, with many deaths occurring despite optimal use of available therapy. Injury prevention is vital to decrease the impact of HIs. Helmets can decrease the severity of HIs in both bicycle crashes (BCs) and motorcycle crashes (MCCs). A major challenge is to increase helmet use. A mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 1990 and information campaigns aimed at bicyclists have increased the percentage of riders wearing helmets in Washington State. We hypothesized that there would be an associated decrease in the proportion of severe HIs in BC and MCC admissions to the state's only level I trauma center. We analyzed injury region and outcomes for all 466 BC and 992 MCC instate admissions from 1986 to 1993. For BCs, the proportion of severe HIs (Abbreviated Injury Scale score of 4 or 5) declined from 29% in 1986 to 11% in 1993 (p = 0.02). BC trends paralleled helmet use in observations on 8,860 bicycle riders in the area, in which the percentage of helmeted riders rose from 5% in 1987 to 62% in 1993 (p < 0.001). For MCCs, severe HIs declined from 20% before passage of the helmet law to 9% afterward (p < 0.001). Mortality decreased for BCs and MCCs (p < 0.05), and length of hospital stay and ICU stay decreased for BCs (p < 0.05). The percentage of helmeted BC admissions rose from 0% to 32% (p = 0.009), and helmeted MCC admissions rose from 41% to 80% (p < 0.001).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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