UPDATE 5/8: Due to the huge response to the story, Bicycling magazine has posted a clean pdf version of the story on its website here. The editors tell me you may be asked to enter your email to download it, but there's no cost and no obligation.
UPDATE UPDATE 5/9: I'll be on KUOW, Seattle's NPR affiliate, this morning at 10am PDT talking about bike helmets and concussions. Listen to the archived show here.
Concussions are Topic A in many sports right now. But not in bicycling. Most riders assume it's not their problem, what with that sleek helmet they're sporting. Here's the thing, though. Bike helmets protect the head against one thing: skull fracture. And skull fracture has nothing to do with concussion. They've done studies. I've read them. There's no correlation. So now you're wondering what your bike helmet does to protect you against concussion. The answer is jack squat.
I've spent much of the past year investigating concussions and bike helmets. Bicycling Magazine just published my findings in its June issue. That article, "Senseless," isn't yet on the web, but I've linked to a scanned version of the piece here.
For more than thirty years, medical researchers have known that concussions occur because of brain spin, not blunt force. Helmet makers ignored the concussion problem because they assumed they couldn't solve it, and their customers didn't much care. Riders assumed they were safe because the government certified every helmet sold. What they don't know is that the government standard is the very thing that prevents helmets from getting better -- and addressing the concussion problem.
And that problem is getting worse. The death rate for bicyclists has steadily declined over the past 15 years. The concussion rate for bicyclists is going the other direction. It's growing faster than the sport.
The good news: There is a solution. It's available on the shelf today. You just have to know where to look.