The prestigious Cleveland Clinic lists motorcycle crashes as one of the top-three causes of traumatic brain injuries. A reason for this is spelled out in a National Highway Transportation pamphlet titled The Anatomy of a Motorcycle Crash:
More than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the motorcyclist. The motorcycle itself provides no head injury protection to the rider or passenger. Ejection from the motorcycle is a common injury pathway. If a motorcycle comes to a sudden stop and the rider is ejected from the motorcycle, the rider will forcibly strike objects in the path as well as the ground.
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Slamming into a car, truck or the pavement headfirst will do significant damage to a motorcyclist’s brain even if the person wears a helmet. While helmets offer great protection against skull fractures and facial injuries, not even the best-designed and properly fitted full-enclosure helmet will stop a rider’s brain from colliding with the inside of the skull. That impact is what actually causes a concussion. When the brain hits the skull with enough force, structural damage can occur.
Motorcycle riders face high risks for all types of serious and deadly injuries because their motorcycles lack the seatbelts, airbags, side panels, roofs and crumple zones that are mandated for cars and trucks. Wearing a helmet and other protective clothing such as boots, long pants and a heavy leather coat can help, but nothing protects a motorcyclist better than attentive and respectful drivers.
Motorcycle riders who do suffer traumatic brain injuries in crashes caused by negligent or reckless drivers can experience a range of symptoms. The most common are headaches, nausea, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, trouble sleeping, dizziness and loss of balance. Those are typical of a concussion, and the symptoms may last for weeks.
More serious TBIs leave victims unconscious for minute, days or weeks. Upon regaining consciousness, the brain injury victim will experience concussion symptoms as well as one or more of the following:
- Memory loss,
- Problems with speech and learning,
- Mood swings,
- Convulsions and seizures,
- Tingling and numbness in hands and feet, and/or
- Difficulties dressing, eating, bathing and performing other tasks of daily living.
The full extent of a TBI may not become clear until months or years after a motorcycle crash. Family member and friends of the victim often suffer emotionally and financially along with the person afflicted by the traumatic brain injury.