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STUDY: Open-face helmets offer as much protection as no helmet

Open-face style helmets don't give as much protection as you might think
Open-face style helmets don't give as much protection as you might think
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Wednesday, 05, Mar 2014 02:55

by David Weston

A study published in The Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery by a group of Brazilian researchers has concluded that an open-face helmet gives almost as little protection against facial injuries and brain trauma as not wearing a helmet at all.

The study looked at 253 motorcyclists who were victims of road incidents and suffered head and face injuries. They were all referred to outpatient treatment.

Of the motorists in the research, 156 patients did not wear a helmet, 51 wore open-face helmets and 46 people wore full-face helmets (despite the law in Brazil requiring motorcycle users to wear a form of protection).

The study found open-face helmets offered little protection against brain injury. Of the 156 riders without helmets, 108 suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). That equates to 69.2% of patients.

Shockingly, 39 out of the 51 patients who wore an open-face helmet also suffered a brain injury. This is a mammoth 76.5% of people in the study, suggesting little or no difference between wearing an open-face helmet and nothing at all.

By comparison, only 24 of 46 (52.2%) of motorcyclists with a full-face helmet received a TBI.

A TBI is "defined as any period of loss of consciousness, any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident, any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident, or focal neurologic deficits".

The study divided the head into three horizontal sections, the mandible (jaw), the midface and the upper face and looked at the severity of injury and lacerations to the face.

Open-face helmets only offered protection to the upper face compared to riders with no helmet. The report found: "25 of 156 patients (16%) without crash helmets had fractures to the upper face compared with 2 of 51 patients (3.9%) with open-face helmets and 1 of 46 patients (2.2%) with full-face helmets."

If both TBI and facial injuries were combined, the results of the study were similar.

Protection Number Suffered facial fracture
with TBI (%)
No helmet 156 98 (62.82)
Full-face helmet 46 16 (34.78)
Open-face helmet 51 35 (68.83)

As the table shows, the percentage of riders who suffered both facial lacerations and brain injury while wearing an open-face helmet is similar to the number of people who were not wearing a helmet at all.

The study concluded:

"This evidence supports the idea that the open-face helmets offer little or no protection against TBI, probably because the structure of the helmet does not absorb enough energy from the impact; thus the energy is dissipated directly onto the face.

"In the present study population, full-face helmets offered more protection than open-face helmets, and motorcyclists wearing open-face helmets and unhelmeted riders had more severe facial injuries.

"In conclusion, the use of full-face helmets to prevent or decrease craniomaxillofacial injuries is recommended."

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