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Whether you cycle for exercise or for competition, a helmet will reduce your risk of severe injury in the event of an accident.

That´s according to a new US study, which revealed that helmeted bicycle riders have significantly reduced odds of severe traumatic brain injury after an accident compared to their non-helmeted counterparts.

Researchers from the University of Arizona analysed records of 6,267 patients who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a bicycle-related accident. Just over 25% of all patients were wearing helmets.

“We know for a fact that helmets help you prevent head bleeds in case you get into a bicycle-related accident,” commented Dr. Ansab Haider, one of the study co-authors. “But the real question was, if you get into a bicycle-related accident and end up with a head bleed, does helmet use somehow protect you?”

Findings presented at this year´s Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons show that cyclists wearing helmets had 58% reduced odds of severe traumatic brain injury and 59% reduced odds of death.

The researchers also found that the use of helmets reduced by 61% the odds of craniotomy (an operation to remove part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain) and facial fractures by 26%.

Dr. Haider noted that helmet use helped prevent fractures to the upper part of the face, including the area around the eyes, although it was less effective at preventing fractures to the lower part of the face or the nose.

Following their study, the researchers want manufacturers to design helmets that offer better protection. Also, given the fact that the majority of cyclists in the study were non-helmeted, they want to see injury prevention programmes to increase helmet use, and stricter laws on helmet use.