Doctors report finding that these aging road warriors are more likely to be injured or die as a result of a motorcycle mishap compared to their younger counterparts.
While the typical injured motorcyclist has long been thought of as a young, otherwise healthy victim of sudden injury, a study from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests otherwise. Between 1996 and 2005, researchers found the average age of motorcyclists involved in crashes increased from approximately 34 to 39 years, and the proportion of injured riders above the age of 40 increased from around 28 percent to close to 50 percent.
Of all injured riders included in the study, 50- to 59-year-olds represented the fastest growing group, while 20- to 29-year-olds were the most rapidly declining. Accidents are a leading reason people require long-term care according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. “A small but significant porportion of claims are made by people in their 40s and 50s mostly as a result of accidents,” explains Jesse Slome, director.
For riders above the age of 40, injury severity, length of stay in the hospital or intensive care unit, and mortality were higher compared to riders below the age of 40. The risk of dying was one-and-a-half to two times more likely in riders over 40, based on the severity of the original injury. The study also found that older riders are more likely to die from less severe injuries than younger riders, to spend at least 24 hours in the intensive care unit, and to have more pre-existing co-morbidities and complications that contribute to longer hospital stays.
The increase in injury severity for older riders may be related to the reduced capacity to withstand injury as the body ages. Age-related changes, such as decreases in bone strength and brain size, may make older riders more susceptible to injury. Other factors associated with aging, such as impaired vision, delayed reaction time, and altered balance contribute to motorcycle crashes in this population, explaining in part the researchers’ finding that older riders crashed more often as a result of loss of control than younger riders.
Researchers using the National Trauma Databank reviewed the records of 61,689 motorcyclists aged 17 to 89 years involved in a motorcycle crash between 1996 and 2005. The average age of motorcyclists involved in crashes steadily increased over the study period, which is consistent with published statistics from the Motorcycle Industry Council which report that the average age of motorcycle ownership rose from 33 years in 1998 to 40 years in 2003.
Motorcycle crashes are a significant cause of injury and death on our nation’s roadways, despite the fact that motorcycles are responsible for only a small fraction of the total miles traveled annually in the United States. The authors say that the study provides justification for expanding the scope of motorcycle safety research, education and training initiatives to specifically target the older motorcyclist.
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