Impact of helmet use in equestrian-related traumatic brain injury: a matched-pairs analysis
Purpose: Traumatic brain injury is an important health concern in equestrian sports. Nevertheless, the use of safety helmets, especially in recreational riding, is reported to be rare. The purpose of this study was to perform the first matched-pairs analysis of traumatic brain injury with regard to the use of helmets. Materials and methods: In a multicenter retrospective database analysis 40 patients (mean age: 35 ± 17.13 years; 34 female & 6 male) were combined in 20 matched pairs based on age group, gender and trauma mechanism. Admission trauma computed tomography was qualitatively analyzed for the presence or absence of fractures or intracranial hemorrhage. Quantitatively, in patients with intracranial hemorrhage dedicated volumetry of the blood volume was performed. Odds ratio and relative risk were calculated for the endpoints fractures and intracranial hemorrhage. Crude risk ratio and lesion volume differences between helmeted and unhelmeted riders were compared. Results: Concerning skull fractures, in this cohort 6 patients (85.7% of all patients with fractures) did not wear a helmet and only one (14.3%) wore a helmet (p = .068).and fractures were considered more complex in the unhelmeted subgroup. Intracranial hemorrhage occurred significantly more often in the unhelmeted subgroup (10 vs. 2; p = .008). Moreover, the total lesion volume with 19.31 ± 23.93ml in the unhelmeted subgroup, presenting with intracranial hemorrhage, was significantly higher than in the control group (0.65 ± 0.35ml; p = .002). Odds ratios were 9 for intracranial hemorrhage (p = .014) and 8.14 for skull fractures without helmet (p = .09). Altogether, the relative risk for intracranial bleeding for unhelmeted riders was 5-fold higher and the relative risk reduction was 96% by wearing a safety helmet. Conclusions: Under consideration of comparable trauma mechanisms, horseback riders that do not wear a safety helmet are at risk to suffer significantly more severe brain injury than helmeted riders. Therefore, safety helmets are recommendable for all horseback riders.