Noble McIntyre on February 12, 2013
In a study released on February 6 in the journal Injury Prevention, researchers examined trends in injury frequency in motorcycle crashes nationwide from 2001-2008. The findings revealed that a greater number of older adults are out on the road riding motorcycles than ever before, but that those older motorcyclists are at a higher risk of serious injuries in the event of a crash.
Motorcycles are no longer a mode of transportation reserved for the young “Rebel Without a Cause” type. The study found that only 10 percent of motorcyclists were over age 50 in 1990, but 25 percent were over 50 in 2003. As the baby boomers are aging, they are pursuing retirement in ways that may not have been traditionally expected of the retirement crowd.
The study analyzed data from the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP). The data was collected from 100 US hospitals, and during this period about 1.5 million adults over the age of 20 were hospitalized for emergency treatment due to a motorcycle crash.
Of those hospitalized, dislocations and fractures were common across all age groups. However, the experts discovered that in older and middle aged bikers, there was a notably higher chance that they would sustain serious chest and rib cage fractures. The researchers noted, “They were also significantly more likely to have sustained internal organ damage, with the brain the most common site. This is worrying, given that head and chest injuries are associated with the lowest rate of survival among bikers.” Natural aging in the body can account for changes that lead this group to be at higher risk. For example older adults are more likely to have alterations in body fat distribution, dwindling bone strength, and decreasing elasticity in the chest wall.
The study also suggested that older adults may be able to afford larger, more powerful bikes that can lead to more severe crashes, emergency medical attention, and the possibility of needing a motorcycle accident attorney. Likewise older adults may have slower reaction times, or impaired vision that may lead to crashes. The underlying message was that, “the increased number of older adults riding motorcycles should put further focus on risk of injury to this population.”