"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Emergency room visits as a result of e-bike injuries are increasing sharply within the United States

April 1, 2024 – The variety of head injuries amongst e-bike riders is increasing alarmingly, while the likelihood of e-bike riders wearing a helmet is decreasing.

It's a recipe that is predicted to spice up the already skyrocketing number of individuals visiting the country's emergency rooms after breakdowns on the favored and powerful bikes, lots of which might travel greater than 20 miles per hour.

New research shows that e-bike injuries within the US increased 30-fold and hospitalizations increased 43-fold from 2017 to 2022. During that five-year period, there have been greater than 45,000 emergency room visits as a result of e-bike injuries and greater than 5,000 hospitalizations. The results were published in JAMA SurgeryIn addition, researchers are working on an evaluation that compares e-bike injuries to those who occur when riding a standard bike.

The findings on head injuries amongst e-bike riders are most striking, especially given the decline in helmet use, said lead creator Adrian Fernandez, MD.

“We see so many people riding e-bikes in San Francisco that it was just an area of ​​interest for us, and especially the fact that we see people riding e-bikes without helmets made us curious and us asked if there were any other injuries,” said Fernandez, a resident physician on the University of California San Francisco. “We’ve seen a really explosive trend of increasing injuries and hospitalizations.”

From 2017 to 2022, the number of individuals treated within the country's emergency rooms for e-bike injuries doubled annually, the researchers found. The number of individuals hospitalized for serious injuries also doubled every year during that five-year period. The researchers were careful to rule out injuries attributable to other types of so-called “micromobility,” equivalent to electric scooters. The data was collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and included reports from about 100 emergency rooms across the country.

Common forms of injuries include upper and lower extremity injuries, equivalent to a broken wrist or broken leg, Fernandez said. Blunt injuries were also common, equivalent to hitting a automotive door or falling on hard surfaces. But the highest category of injuries also included injuries to the pinnacle, equivalent to a cut on the scalp or concussion.

The researchers warned: “The increasing proportion of head injuries in our study requires further investigation as traumatic brain injuries are more severe in e-cyclists than in traditional cyclists.”

Helmets: A troublesome sell

According to the Light Electric Vehicle Association, the variety of e-bikes sold within the United States quadrupled from 2019 to 2022, from 287,000 to 1.1 million published from the US Department of Energy. Sharing and rental programs for e-bikes in metropolitan areas aimed toward commuters have also increased.

Fernandez noted that the majority e-bike rental firms, which permit people to simply unlock and hop on their bikes through a mobile device app, don't even have the power to simply provide helmets. Improving helmet use represents a big opportunity to enhance public health and utilization of often already overwhelmed emergency departments.

Not all bicycle helmets offer the identical protection against head injuries, and the one requirement for a bicycle helmet to be marketed within the United States is that it must pass a series of tests to indicate that it will probably prevent a skull fracture or a life-threatening head injury. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees the Minimum protection requirements for bicycle helmets.

People searching for greater than just this basic protection can concentrate Helmet Reviews published by a dedicated helmet testing laboratory within the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.

“If the helmet passes these basic tests, the chances of you getting a skull fracture or dying are pretty low based on the testing protocol used. “So we supplement these pass-fail certifications with real-world, sport-specific helmet reviews,” said Barry Miller, PhD, MBA, director of public relations and business development on the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. “So we figure out: How do people hit their head while riding a bike, how do they hit their head while skiing, how do they hit their head getting off a horse, how do they hit their head while playing soccer?”

Miller said he wasn't surprised by the most recent e-bike injury numbers and that his lab is considering making a category of helmet rankings only for e-bikers.

“With old-fashioned pedal power you have a lot of control over how you create power and friction with the road, but if you just press the gas button you'll go faster than ever before. People weren't used to that. Your steering will be a little more difficult. It's like driving your car at high speed; Small movements have big results,” he said.

Anyone selecting a helmet for riding an e-bike should consider three questions:

  • How often do they ride?
  • How fast are they going?
  • What is the driving environment like?

Those who only ride occasionally, don't ride fast, and are in controlled environments like a recreational bike path with few unexpected obstacles usually are not at the identical risk as a each day commuter in an enormous city with busy roads.

Andy Powell of Charlotte, North Carolina, grew up snowboarding and never wore a helmet. This habit continued when he began making skateboarding his primary type of transportation during college.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to wear a helmet. My parents didn't force me to wear one. “I really wasn't aware of the dangers of helmet safety when I was young, and I didn't hit my head,” said Powell, now co-owner of a store called Rent E-Boards Charlotte which rents and sells electric bikes and skateboards.

Powell admits that while he was studying, he thought helmets were inconvenient and made people look uncomfortable.

“These are the prejudices of the users who come to my store. For whatever reason, our culture has instilled in them the idea that helmets are optional. Although this is the case, they are still definitely recommended,” he said.

Powell says no customer hit his head in any of the stores. The team spends plenty of time showing customers how the bikes work, discussing the importance of visibility and a spotlight, and likewise the importance of wearing a helmet. People buying e-bikes or e-skateboards often ask in the event that they can wear an ordinary bike helmet, Powell said. He recommends helmets with a so-called MIPS certification, which suggests that the helmet offers protection against concussions in falls that may occur when the body rotates. His store provides these top quality helmets so that you can use on all rentals.

“The helmet debate is a big deal. A lot of times people will defend their point of view as to why they don't wear a helmet and say, “I know how to fall,” Powell said. “When it comes to your future, I try to convince our customers that they want to continue cycling. To achieve this, you must take preventative measures.”