There is a lot of publicity and a significant campaign to raise awareness in relation to concussion and head injury in sport. Throughout the world, sports organisations have taken steps to treat causes of concussion more seriously. However there doesn’t seem to be the same level of awareness for cyclists. I want to highlight the importance of wearing cycling helmets in order to reduce the amount of traumatic brain injuries and death for cyclists by promoting the benefits of wearing of helmets for children and young people.
When I went to France last year I saw how it was mandatory there for children and teenagers to wear helmets when cycling and when I came home I realised that none of my peers wear cycling helmets and whilst there is such an emphasis on health and fitness I often hear parents of younger children saying they don’t want their children to cycle as it is too dangerous. I visited someone in the National Rehabilitation Hospital a few times recently and I was struck by the amount of young people there with a brain injury. I subsequently became aware that brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in young people.
People aged between 15-29 years of age are three times more likely to get a brain injury than any other groups (Headway Ireland). I was really struck by how severe traumatic brain injury can result in long-term disability and intellectual, personality and behavioural problems. I understand that many of the more severely impaired young people end up living in nursing homes for the rest of their lives as there is no specialist centre available to meet the needs of the more severely impaired. In 2017 the Irish times published an article on brain injury stating that international evidence shows that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by as much as 75 per cent, research cited by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).
In Ireland, cyclists account for over 20 percent of all transport-related hospitalisations, even though they are responsible for only 1 percent or 2 percent of traffic. Over a third of hospitalised cyclists have head injuries compared to only 15 per cent for motorcyclists. Around five of the 110 beds at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, are occupied by an injured cyclist at any one time. I am in sixth year in school and studying politics and society. I am aware that one of the targets of the UN sustainable development goals is by 2020 is to half the number of global deaths and injuries from RTA.
I know that in 2017 The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has called for hi-vis clothing and helmets to be made compulsory however I don’t see this having progressed any further. The awareness raised by the sporting organisations and the media on head injury in sport is to be welcomed. If I was to be cynical I might think that there is a lot of money in advertising for rugby in particular and cycling is almost like a Cinderella sport. This is my effort to raise awareness in the area and to encourage people to wear helmets when cycling.
So take responsibility, and look after your greatest treasure.