Bike injuries spike during lockdown

Eight-year-old Eli was riding his bike to the beach with his dad and two brothers when he went down a hill too fast, flew over a jump and landed on is head.

His helmet saved his life.

Eli was one of 173 children and adolescents admitted to hospital after a bike fall during NSW's most recent lockdown. Between 26 June, when Sydney's lockdown began, through to 14 October, injuries from bicycles increased by 78 per cent at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick and The Children's Hospital at Westmead compared to the same period last year. The majority of injuries occurred in older children and adolescents who were mountain bike riding.

Eli sustained fractures in his spine and his neck from the fall, spent a week in hospital and seven weeks in a back brace. Had he not been wearing a helmet though, his injuries would have been far worse.

Trauma surgeons, Dr Susan Adams and Dr S Soundappan, stressed the importance of wearing a helmet, saying accidents like Eli's were not uncommon.

"We have seen patients in our Emergency Departments whose helmets have been split in two from the impact of their fall. It is a very stark reminder of just how serious the damage could have been, had that protective measure not been in place,” Dr Soundappan said.

“The best thing parents can do is talk to older children about the importance of helmet and bicycle safety and ensure young children always wear a helmet, regardless of where they are riding.”

Children not wearing helmets are more at risk of serious head injury including concussion, brain damage and other long-term neurological problems. Wearing a helmet reduces this risk by 60–90%.

The trauma team also urged children and teens in particular, to practice safe behaviours when riding.

“Throughout lockdown, exercise has been such an important way to manage our mental health and we want to encourage outdoor recreation with friends as much as possible. But there are a few safety messages we hope they will take on board when out riding bikes,” Dr Adams said.

“Older children and teenagers need to make sure they are taking care in traffic, riding to their skill level, and not being too daring with jumps.”

“Most importantly though, they need to make sure they are wearing a helmet. This simple measure can be the difference between a great day out and one ending in tragedy."

Eli's advice to other kids and teens is simple, "Put your helmet on because if you don't and do the same thing as me, you could be in a wheelchair or worse."

The four simple bike, scooter and skateboard safety rules are:

  1. Wear a helmet
  2. Wear protective clothing
  3. Ensure children build up bike riding skills, off the road
  4. Ensure young children are supervised while riding

For more information on bike and helmet safety, visit the Kids Health website.