Bicycle-related injuries among children and adolescents in the U.S. are a significant public health concern, costing nearly $200 million in annual in-patient hospital charges, according to a new study published in the October issue of Injury Prevention.
The national study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, estimates that approximately 10,700 children are hospitalized annually for a bicycle-related injury with an average length of stay of three days.
Children and adolescents comprise more than half of the estimated 85 million bicycle riders in the U.S.
Although it has been long known that bicycle-related injuries result in more emergency department visits for children than any other recreational sport, the new study looks beyond emergency room visits to examine hospitalizations.
“Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile,” said study author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy and faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “The high rate of hospitalization and use of healthcare resources identified in our study supports the need for increased attention to bicycle-related injuries.”
The study found that motor vehicles were involved in approximately 30 percent of bicycle-related hospitalizations, and the association with motor vehicles increased among older children.
One-third of children hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, a statistic that may be preventable through the use of bicycle helmets.
“The findings from our study can be used to promote targeted prevention strategies to lessen the severity of injury and the number of deaths resulting from pediatric bicycle-related injuries,” Smith said in a news release. “We know that bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury by up to 85 percent. We need to increase efforts to promote helmet use by children riding bicycles.”