A study reported in the September 1 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that bicycle-related injuries have increased significantly over the past 15 years, especially among those older than 45.
The study was based on data culled from 100 emergency rooms nationwide that compared the period 1998-1999 to 2012-2013, examining ER visits for bicycle-related injuries.
The rate of bicycle-related injuries during this period among all adults increased by 28 percent — from 96 injuries per 100,000 people in 1998-1999 to 123 injuries per 100,000 people in 2012-2013.
However, injuries among people age 45 and older increased at a significantly higher rate. In 1998-1999, injured cyclists in this age group accounted for 23 percent of ER visits, while in 2012-2013, they accounted for 42 percent.
Urologist Benjamin Breyer, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study, said a rise in the number of men coming in for surgery for urethral damage and related injuries after cycling accidents piqued his and his colleagues’ curiosity, leading to the study.
“There are just more people riding and getting injured in that [45+] age group,” Breyer said. “It’s definitely striking.”
Rise of Cycling, Older Riders More Susceptible to Injury
One reason behind the dramatic rise in bike-related accidents could be a similar rise in popularity of cycling during roughly the same period of the study.
Between 1995 and 2009 Americans older than 25 made up the bulk of the biking boom, according to the National Household Travel Survey. The biggest increase was among older riders, though, especially men in their 50s and 60s, taking up road cycling.
“If you consider a 65-year-old who falls off their bike exactly the same way a 25-year-old does, the 65-year-old is going to sustain more injuries even if they’re in great shape,” Breyer said.
He remains a proponent of cycling despite the findings of the study. “The last thing I want people to take away from this is that bike riding is unsafe or bad. It’s a great way to stay healthy and it’s a great way to get to work,” Breyer said.
But he believes basic safety precautions are absolutely essential, including wearing a helmet and reflective gear, using lights and riding defensively.
And the study’s authorship group added: “As the population of cyclists in the United States shifts to an older demographic, further investments in infrastructure and promotion of safe riding practices are needed to protect bicyclists from injury.”
Click to see an abstract of the survey.