Motorcyclists in Virginia should always wear a helmet, and there are good reasons why. The most common fatal injury is to the head, and helmets substantially help reduce brain injury during a crash. Even those who survive with a brain injury can have long-lasting and debilitating effects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is a 69% reduced chance of head injury when a motorcycle rider wears a helmet and a 37% reduced chance of death. In the event a rider does not wear head protection, the consequences can be severe.

According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah, there are different types and levels of brain injury. Depending on the speed of the motorcycle, the location and force of impact and other factors, the most common types of traumatic brain injury for a motorcyclist include:

  • Concussion – caused by whiplash or hitting the head, this varies in severity and impairments
  • Contusion – blow to the head that causes bleeding of the brain
  • Coup-contrecoup – a devastating blow to the head that causes multiple contusions
  • Diffuse axonal – caused by rotation of the head, there is widespread nerve tissue tearing

Although mild brain injury is less common in motorcycle crashes, the fortunate riders who have it may notice a brief change in mental status such as being in a daze, losing consciousness or confusion. In most collisions, however, the injury is more severe. The effects may include:

  • Long-term behavioral, physical or cognitive impairments
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Long-term hospitalization
  • Intense rehabilitation

People who survive severe brain injuries typically do not fully recover, even with the best medical care.