Do helmets really protect racing cyclists?

Most sport cyclists wear a helmet as it is “obvious” that it protects them.  Does it really protect?

Since helmets have been made mandatory, deaths of professional cyclists while racing have doubled:

“The helmet rule for professional cyclists was brought by the UCI in 2003 following the death of Andrei Kivlev during the Paris-Nice race.

Since then deaths of professional cyclists while racing have doubled, so where is the protection that helmets are supposed to give a rider?

It seems to me that there is too much emphasis on the part of manufacturers in designing something that looks cool rather than do what it is supposed to do, and that is protect a rider in the event he or she should hit their head.”

It is odd that helmets  are imposed on racing cyclists as they travel at speeds far greater than what these polystyrene helmets are designed to handle. “Helmets” are designed to cushion falls below 20 km/h. Professional cyclists travel at speeds of 40 to 50 km/h, increasing to 80 km/h in downhill sections.

Helmets make little difference in a serious accident, as Dr Carwyn Hooper from St George’s University in London reports:

“Looking at evidence, it does not matter if people are wearing a helmet or not, any serious accident on a bike is likely to kill them,”

So why is it deem to be so essential that racing cyclists wear devices that are not designed to protect them? The Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport’s ruling body, first tried to impose helmets in 1991, but failed. It finally imposed them in 2003, using a tragic accident as an excuse. This was done in the name of safety, conveniently opening up a new stream of sponsorship income for professional cycling. Who has it benefited besides helmets manufacturers?

After widespread helmet use following legislation for non-racing cyclists, the risk of death & serious injuries also increased significantly.

So where is the “protection” provided by helmets?  Bicycle helmets are known to increase risks in several ways:

  1. increase the risk of accidents
  2. increase the risk of the head hitting the road
  3. increase the risk of neck injury
  4. increase the risk of brain injury

Such risk factors does not seem to have been compensated by a piece of polystyrene.

Is it safe to take for granted that the protection provided by helmets outweighs their risks?

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