No helmets worn in 70% of face injuries from electric bike, scooters

Science and Health

Seven out of 10 people injured riding electric bicycles, scooters and other vehicles who were treated at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center’s emergency room didn’t wear a protective helmet. Not only have many been killed in such accidents or suffered serious orthopedic injuries, but many have suffered serious and painful harm to their face and jaw. 

Dr. Shimrit Arbel, a senior physician in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the hospital conducted a study of 320 such patients – 193 males and 127 females – who came to the hospital’s emergency department after being injured in the face in such accidents. 

The age range of the patients was wide ranging from three years for the youngest patient to 89 years for the oldest. Of these, 238 patients were found to be injured as a result of riding an electric scooter and 82 patients as a result of riding an electric bicycle. Over 70% of the patients reported that they did not wear a helmet while riding, most of them electric scooter riders, and about 20% of the riders were injured after riding under the influence of alcohol.

The study has just been published in the journal Environmental Research and Public Health under the title “Maxillofacial Injuries Sustained by Riders of Electric-Powered Bikes and Electric-Powered Scooters.” 

Bicycle and helmet [illustrative] (credit: INGIMAGE)

Electric-powered bikes and scooters, and the resulting injuries

Recent years have witnessed the increasing popularity of electric-powered bicycles (E-bikes) and electric-powered scooters (E-scooters) as a mode of transportation worldwide. Rental E-scooters were first introduced in Israel as an easily accessible and inexpensive means of urban transportation in early 2019, the team wrote. 

The current estimated number of E-scooters in Israel is between 100,000 and 150,000, of which some 2,000 rental E-scooters are distributed via four major providers throughout the city of Tel Aviv alone. 

Additionally, thousands of private E-bikes and E-scooters are being used throughout the country, Riders may have insufficient experience and no proper training in handling these relatively new means of transportation, along with insufficient use of protective gear, especially those using rental E-scooters. In addition, a designated infrastructure for these means of transportation is not widespread throughout urban areas, forcing the users to navigate either between motor vehicles or among pedestrians. Concern regarding potential injury to riders and pedestrians has risen markedly, they wrote. 

Thirty-four-year-old Tal Sigway, a wedding-dress designer, rode his scooter on his way to his home in Tel Aviv while wearing a half-head helmet and overturned because of a small pothole in the road. “At first, I thought I was really lightly injured, but when I got to the emergency room at Sourasky, I realized that I had dislocated my jaw and had to undergo surgery to fix my jaws. I didn’t understand how I even got from a situation where half an hour ago I was measuring a dress for a bride to a situation where I was about to undergo surgery, because of something so unnecessary and dangerous – a scooter.”

He was hospitalized. “Several days in the oral and maxillofacial unit and after discharge I had to complete the fixation of the jaw that took three weeks during which I could hardly eat or drink,” continued Sigway. “It was a difficult time for me. I am finished riding a scooter and have no intention of going back to it, but for those who still ride these dangerous vehicles, my advice is throw away the half-head helmet and buy a full helmet, I know for sure that if I had been riding with one like that, I would not have gotten into this situation.”

“Most of the injuries were ‘minor injuries’ such as broken teeth, tooth movement or tooth loss that required fixation. Other common injuries were cuts in the facial area that required stitching as part of the emergency room. About a third of the cases had fractures in the facial bones that required hospitalization and surgery under general anesthesia to repair the fractures. We discovered that injuries resulting from riding electric bicycles were more severe than injuries resulting from riding electric scooters, apparently due to the tendency to ride at a higher speed on electric bicycles.”

The conclusions of the study were that casual riding on bicycles and electric scooters, riding without a helmet, as well as riding under the influence of alcohol, significantly increase the risk of serious facial injuries, including facial bone fractures. “Our recommendation is to always ride with a helmet, preferably a full helmet and not just a half helmet and never ride under the influence of alcohol,” stressed Arbel.