Study objective: To determine the effect of the use of a motorcycle helmet on reducing the mortality, morbidity, and health care costs resulting from motorcycle crashes.
Design: A prospective, multicenter study of all eligible motorcycle crash victims.
Setting: The emergency departments of eight medical centers across the state of Illinois, including representatives from urban, rural, teaching, and community facilities.
Type of participants: All motorcycle crash victims presenting less than 24 hours after injury for whom helmet information was known. Data were collected from April 1 through October 31, 1988.
Measurements and main results: Fifty-eight of 398 patients (14.6%) were helmeted, and 340 (85.4%) were not. The nonhelmeted patients had higher Injury Severity Scores (11.9 vs 7.02), sustained head/neck injuries more frequently (41.7 vs 24.1%), and had lower Glasgow Coma Scores (13.73 vs 14.51). Twenty-five of the 26 fatalities were nonhelmeted patients. By logistic regression, the lack of helmet use was found to be a major risk factor for increased severity of injury. A 23% increase in health care costs was demonstrated for nonhelmeted patients (average charges $7,208 vs $5,852).
Conclusion: Helmet use may reduce the overall severity of injury and the incidence of head injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes. A trend toward higher health care costs was demonstrated in the nonhelmeted patients.