People ages 60 and older account for an increasing proportion of individuals injured in motorcycle crashes in the United States, a new study finds.
In addition, older adults are more likely to be seriously injured in these crashes, and require hospitalization, according to researchers who analyzed records of emergency department visits for motorcycle crash injuries between 2001 and 2008.
During that period 1.5 million motorcycle crash injuries involved adults ages 20 and older. Most injuries were among people ages 20 to 39 (more than 920,000 injuries), compared to people ages 40 to 59 (more than 466,000 injuries), and people ages 60 and up (more than 65,000 injuries).
But while injury rates increased for all age groups, they were highest for older adults.
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The number of people ages 60 and older who were injured in motorcycle crashes during the period studied rose 247 percent, from about 4,300 injuries in 2001 to about 15,100 injuries in 2008. By comparison, the number of injuries increased 61 percent (from about 42,900 to 69,500) for people ages 40 to 59, and 28 percent (from about 99,800 to 128,000) for people ages 20 to 39.
Overall, the proportion of motorcycle crash injuries involving people ages 60 and older climbed from 3 percent in 2001 to 7 percent in 2008.
Older motorcycle riders were also three times more likely to be hospitalized for their injuries than younger riders. Fractures and dislocations were the most common types of injuries for all age groups, although older adults were especially likely to suffer these injuries. Older adults were also more likely to sustain injuries to their internal organs, including the brain.
"The greater severity of injuries among older adults may be due to the physiological changes that occur as the body ages," including decreased bone strength and changes in the distribution of body fat, the researchers said.
Previous studies have found that the number of older motorcycle riders is on the rise. In 1990, about 10 percent of motorcycle riders were over 50, compared to 25 percent in 2003.
"The increased number of older adults riding motorcycles in recent years should put further focus on the risk of injury to this population," the researchers wrote in the Feb. issue of the journal Injury Prevention.
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