Motorcycle Crashes and Spinal Injuries
Internationally, traffic accidents are estimated to account for 50% or more of spinal injury cases. Many of these spinal injuries are sustained by motorcyclists, who are more likely to be injured severely compared to car occupants. A recent study analyzed the crash characteristics of motorcyclists who sustained spinal injuries in a collision, with the aim of identifying risk factors related to motorcyclists' spinal injuries.
The researchers analyzed data from police case reports of motorcycle crashes both with and without spinal injury. A total of 363 collisions resulting in spinal injury and 873 that did not cause spinal injury were included in the study.
Three factors were found to have a significant influence on whether the motorcyclist sustained a spinal injury: crash configuration, single vehicle crash, and collision with a fixed object. Motorcyclists colliding with fixed objects such as poles or barriers faced more than a 90% increase in the risk of spinal injury. Spinal injury was twice as likely to occur in single-vehicle crashes than in multiple vehicle crashes. Rear-end collisions showed the highest risk; spinal injuries were up to 2.7 times more likely to occur in rear-end crashes compared to frontal collisions. Motorcyclists carrying an additional rider also had an elevated risk of spinal injury.
Most crash victims were male, between the ages of 16-25, who possessed a valid license to drive a motorcycle, reflecting the demographics of motorcycle riders in Malaysia, where the data was collected. There were no significant differences in age, sex, or possession of a motorcycle license between motorcyclists who sustained spinal injuries and those who did not.
In this study, helmets were seen to reduce head injury, but did not seem to offer similar protection from spinal injury. The researchers conclude that further efforts are needed to find effective ways to reduce the incidence of spinal injury in motorcycle collisions.
Zulkipli ZH, et al. Motorcycle-related spinal injury: Crash characteristics. Accident Analysis and Prevention 2012; (49): 237-44.