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Cycling injuries soar in Cairns

The Cairns Post: Cycling injuries soar in Cairns

Nick Dalton
Thursday, December 17, 2009
© The Cairns Post

DRUNK and risk-taking male cyclists dominate the number of cycling injuries treated by Cairns Base Hospital’s emergency department each year.

More than 200 cyclists are treated at the department each year with men and youths figuring highly.

Last year there were 290 cyclists admitted to the department with 242 of those men (168 adults, 74 under-16) and 48 women, while in 2007 it was 253, with males making up 201 (117 men, 84 under-16) and women 52.

So far this year there have been 228 injured cyclists, 183 male (123 adults, 60 under-16) and 45 female.

Emergency specialist Dr Luke Wheatley said male cyclists tended to figure prominently because there were more of them on the roads.

But, he said, like drowning and severe spinal injuries, the cases were the result of men taking risks. Dr Wheatley said men in the 15-35 age group had an "I’ll be right" attitude to high-risk activities.

He said drunk riders were a major category.

"Riding while intoxicated is over- represented in the statistics," Dr Wheatley said.

He said Cairns was relatively easy to get around with not a lot of hills so people tended to believe it was not a problem to ride intoxicated.

Dr Wheatley said most of the drunk riders fell off their bikes and crashed heavily to the ground.

He said cyclists who did not wear helmets were at the greatest risk of death because of head injuries.

"Fortunately, the majority (who come here) have been wearing helmets," Dr Wheatley said.\He said children were prone to not wearing helmets and also suffered injuries from handlebars.

Dr Wheatley said all cyclists should wear helmets, regardless of age.

"I have seen a completely shattered helmet with the head intact … there’s a message there," he said.

An NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust report has found that only the most severe 2 per cent of cycling injuries (and 10 per cent of motorcycle crashes) showed up in official statistics, while cycling crashes accounted for 10 to 20 per cent of all road trauma injuries.

Study author, ANU road trauma expert Drew Richardson, said the "bicycle burden’’ was highly significant among men aged 40 to 49.