Medical Truth About Modern Helmet Design!

Whilst reviewing some of the protective equipment on the market, and notably the relative advances in helmet design over recent years, I was reminded of an overall problem that designers and their respective marketing departments have possibly overlooked. 

In the event, of an accident, the emergency services respond to an incident involving a motorcyclist, in which they provide emergency aid to the patient and where possible provide treatment that may preserve life or may stabilise a patient until the patient is transported to hospital whereupon further treatment is given. 

Medics routinely gain access to the torso and limbs by cutting away at clothing, to first assess any injuries and provide treatment. Sometimes much to the displeasure of the rider, expensive motorcycle clothing is cut through, sometimes this takes some effort as the modern materials used can provide some useful resistance to the medics scissors. 

One of the most problematic areas is the helmet removal and the potential for further injury to the head and spinal cord. Whilst medics are trained in helmet removal in a traditional sense, they are not necessarily aware of the latest designs such as the air pump systems, or the EQRS which enables the cheek pads to be removed whilst the helmet is still in situ, and which ultimately have been designed or partly so to assist medics to remove the helmet, in order, to provide treatment. 

The issue is not with the design, nor with the marketing of the system amongst the motorcycling businesses & public, moreover it is the marketing of these designs amongst ambulance and other emergency services whose workforce are not necessarily part of the motorcycling public. 

Sometimes even when the ambulance service, as an organisation, are aware of the new designs, the medics themselves may not be aware of it or at least may not be aware of how these helmets have been designed to assist them in giving treatment. 

The ultimate aim of the medic is to secure the airway of the patient (so that they are able to breathe either naturally or assisted) and treat any head injury and stabilise and restrict the head from movement to protect from further known injury or possible injury either to the head or spinal cord, in order to transport the patient to hospital for further treatment. Of course all medics will be trained in how to remove general helmets and will be able to successfully remove any helmet, but many will be using traditional techniques because they are totally unaware of the updated designs.

Of course more communication and greater information is always welcomed by any emergency service crew, but due to staff turnover and because most emergency service crews, as an individual crew, will seldom attend a motorcycle accident (possibly less than 5 per year), and with most of those crews not necessarily part of the motorcycling public, then it is unsurprising that many crews are not aware of the latest advances.

If we consider a Paramedic/Medic on an ambulance, they have to cover a vast array of prehospital human conditions and situations. In reality, motorcycle accidents, form a very small percentage of their daily working lives. Unless there is a particular location with a very large ‘motorcycle community’ and a very small ambulance service or in some cases only a single ambulance response, in those situations there might be a higher percentage of experience of motorcycle accidents per individual crew, otherwise medic crews will not see this kind of incident on a regular basis.

As specialists in responding to traumatic injuries, air ambulances deal with significantly more motorcycle incidents per year. On a particular air ambulance that I have worked on for many years, a regular annual total of 70 – 80 incidents were attended, some years, there was significantly more.

Even on our unit, the medics are not necessarily, up to date on the latest helmet designs and usually revert to traditional practices when treating a motorcyclist.

So the reality is, unless the motorcycle clothing, accessory & helmet designers actively market their products within the emergency services industry and provide training packages to fully explain to medics how their designs are intended and unless within the ambulance services there is a much improved dissemination of information, then these designs will ultimately provide little assistance in the treatment of a motorcyclist.  

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