Free «Using Helmets to Prevent Head Injuries among Children» Essay

Using Helmets to Prevent Head Injuries among Children


The use of bicycle helmets among bicyclists has been researched far much and wide, especially with various legislative undertakings to enforce the use of helmets among children who are riding bicycles. This paper embarks on the analysis of empirical research findings to establish the effectiveness of the use of bicycle helmets in preventing head injuries among children. In particular, this research aims at finding an answer to the research question: How can use of helmets among children prevent head injuries while riding bicycles? The paper begins by reviewing four empirical types of recently published research confined to the use of helmets among children in various geographic settings and demographics. This analysis focuses on four areas of the selected research: purpose, type of a research sample and number of participants, research design used, findings of the research, and limitations of the study in question. Based on the analysis, the paper then draws to a conclusion for its research question. Finally, the paper offers a recommendation, based on its conclusion, as to which areas warrant further research.

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Research Designs of Selected Studies

Studies selected for this article have made use of both primary and secondary data. In cases where the studies make use of primary data, these have been gathered for the first time by the researchers while in cases where they make use of secondary data, the data has been obtained from various databases such as hospital database of patients as well as government database on a census. The studies are not based on sole analyses of previous research at any point. Two studies have made use of retrospective analysis design, one uses empirical analysis, and the one more adopts quantitative analysis design.

Apparently, research designs mentioned above are all effective. However, research done by Mizunoa et al. (2014), which makes use of quantitative research design, is the most effective in its approach to studying energy attenuation among three types of helmets used by Japanese children. The reason why this study ranks highest in the evaluation table is that the study makes an original one and involves a series of trials with helmets against their ability to withstand various levels of the collision on certain parts of vehicles and concrete grounds. Following a thorough analysis of the data, using various graphs depicting levels of attenuated energy, the findings of this study would give more confidence in the real-life situation.

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The other two studies that make use of retrospective research design have engaged in analysis from multiple points of view, which also make their research findings plausible as far as the use of bicycle among children is concerned. Joseph et al. (2014), for instance, does an analysis of all patients who had traumatic brain injury sustained in the bicycle accident. From this approach, it is possible to observe trends across all ages and get to understand why concern so much on children (typically those under the age of 18). Similarly, Castle, Burke, Arbogast, and Upperman (2012), in conducting their study decides to undertake a review of all trauma patients under the age of 18 years old in Los Angeles County between the years 1992 and 2009. Looking at the breadth of a period the study has covered and at its focus on a particular age group, it is only possible to say that findings from the study find application in real life and give clinicians high confidence on the conclusions made therein.

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The systematic analysis used in the empirical research made by Castle et al. is also effective in its basic design. The study has made use of data on head injuries for three years before the implementation of helmet legislation in Alberta, Canada, and for the four succeeding years after the implementation, with the year of implementation as the base year (Castle et al., 2012). Therefore, it has been able to cover a wide period as well as to include more data in the use of a quite large sample size. This has helped to improve the probability that the findings are widely applicable.

Research Findings towards the Question of the Paper

While the findings from these studies prevent some conclusions, they all seem to strike a balance as far as the answer to the research question concerned in this paper. All agree that while it is true that helmets help to reduce head injuries among bicyclists, children included, there is still need to research further on the extent of the reliability of this standpoint. Karkhaneh, Rowe, Saunders, Voaklander, and Hagel (2013) find that non-helmeted riders are more likely to sustain head injuries with a skull fracture as compared to their helmeted counterparts. Even then, these researchers state that use of helmet and lack of it make no difference for intra-cranial hemorrhage, and consequently conclude that wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle is effective in preventing external head injuries although not effective for preventing intra-cranial hemorrhage and that this remains largely questionable.

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Abovementioned conclusions reiterate the same finding by Castle et al. (2012). These authors found significant drops in some cases when children reported having sustained head injuries after Alberta affected the legislation on the mandatory use of helmets among children. In contrast, California's legislation on the use of helmets has not changed the rate of helmet use. However, the same study also finds no significant changes in injuries patterns although head injuries dominated the injuries. Finally, the most comprehensive study by Koji Mizuno et al. (2014) on ”impact attenuation properties of three Japanese child bicycle helmets“ (p. 359), concludes that impact and effect of collisions on the head of users depends largely on acceleration characteristics of the helmet's head-form.

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Limitations of the Studies

The findings from aforementioned studies may have been implicated to some extent by various limitations specific to each, and some, which cut across all of them. For instance, Castle et al. (2012) cite small sample size as the main limitation of their study, which is, of course, a limitation that applies to retrospective studies including that by Karkhaneh et al. (2013). This small sample size reduces the level of confidence and thus the likelihood that the findings are applicable in real life setting. The other major limitation that is evident in three studies was a lack of reference to the type of helmet and bicycle in use when the bicyclist sustained a head injury. As the study by Mizuno et al. (2014) has shown, there is more concern about helmet effectiveness, and one of these determining factors is bicycle type and helmet type. As Mizuno et al. (2014) has been able to demonstrate, other important considerations include acceleration characteristics as well as the position of head-form when helmets collide with an obstacle. These factors are imperative in determining the extent of injuries sustained during collisions. However, even this comprehensive study on its very basis of methodology making used the adult skull characteristics while observing collision effects on child helmets.

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To address the above limitations, the studies, first, should incorporate the types of bicycles and helmets in their discourse. Second, special attention should be paid to sample size for those studies making use of retrospective analysis design. A large sample size is useful in ensuring that level of confidence is increased, and the result of the study reflects closely real life situations. This also has the advantage for clinicians who can have the confidence to implement some of these research findings to help counterweight the situation.

Moving Forward

The studies examined in this paper have had one thing in common. They were all geared towards the validating use of helmets among children and, thus, towards having a mandatory law for enforcing their use. It is evident that bicycle helmets can potentially reduce head injuries among children which have been found the leading causes of morbidity among children in the United States (Castle et al., 2012). It is also likely that helmet legislation is not improving the situation neither it is worsening it. This is a good reason to have a change of practice.

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The change of practice begins with a research. The new body of research should focus on how to engage parents, teachers and all stakeholders effectively to enforce the efficient use of bicycle helmets by the young. This should then extend to the area of implementation of best practices found from quantitative studies. From this point, it is easy to note the effectiveness of the use of a bicycle helmet to prevent head injuries among children. Otherwise, currently, we are operating in a vacuum where every move seems trial and error. This should not be the case when dealing with life. Instead, stakeholders should embrace evidence-based practices. Implementing a practice such as the helmet legislation without a prior research, proving that such an action would worth, is probably blind on its basis. In most cases from the studies reviewed in this paper, there have been laws in place regarding the mandatory use of helmets for children. Nevertheless, it is also true that children emulate adults. So when these laws do not take into account the adults, there is a reason to believe in the research findings that helmet legislation did not change data on head injuries among children.

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In conclusion, research on the effectiveness of bicycle helmets in preventing head injuries among children is not just conclusive. The further research in this area is warranted, especially the one that will take into consideration the concerns abovementioned.

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