Brain surgeon claims bike helmets are useless

May 31, 2014

Neurosurgeon says protective headgear is 'too flimsy' to offer much protection to wearers

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Cycle helmets are a waste of time, a leading brain surgeon has claimed.

Henry Marsh, a neurosurgeon at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, said that many of his patients who had been injured in cycling accidents had been wearing useless helmets.

Speaking at the Hay Festival, he said: “I see lots of people in bike accidents and these flimsy little helmets don’t help.”

He also pointed to a study which concluded that wearing a helmet may put cyclists at greater risk. The University of Bath research found that drivers get around three inches closer to cyclists who wear helmets because they perceive them as safer. The study found that drivers think that helmeted cyclists are more sensible, predictable and experienced.

The surgeon made the remarks while in conversation with Ian McEwan, whose novel Saturday features a neurosurgeon. Marsh said: “I ride a bike and I never wear a helmet. In the countries where bike helmets are compulsory there has been no reduction in bike injuries whatsoever.”

However, his remarks have enraged safety campaigners. The chief executive of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, Angie Lee, said: “This may be his opinion but there are a lot more neurosurgeons and surgeons who would counter that argument.”

She added: “My advice would be the same as the Department of Transport’s which is that helmets have a place in protecting the head.”

A Department of Transport study has shown that helmets could prevent 10-16% of cyclist fatalities.

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