This just in: Seniors are more fragile than young people.
Citing a study by Brown University, the medical journal Injury Prevention reports motorcycle crash victims age 60 and over are 2 1/2 times more likely to suffer severe injuries than were riders in their 20s and 30s. Overall, the study found that older motorcycle bikers have a 35% hospitalization rate, while middle-aged riders have a rate of 25%. Young riders are hospitalized in 15% of motorcycle accidents.
The study also found middle-aged riders are 66% more likely to sustain serious injury than younger bikers. Younger riders typically suffer non-life threatening injuries like limb breakage, contusions, abrasions, and sprains, while older adults are more likely to suffer severe injuries to the brain and other internal organs.
Unsurprisingly, the study blamed its findings on one clear factor: age.
“The greater severity of injuries among older adults may be due to the physiological changes that occur as the body ages,” the study reads. “Bone strength decreases, subcutaneous and visceral fat distribution may change, and there is a decrease in the elasticity of the chest wall…. Delayed reaction time, altered balance and worsening vision may also make older adults more prone to getting into crashes.”
About a quarter of all U.S. motorcycle riders are 50 or older — a segment that has more than doubled since 1990. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the average age of motorcyclists is 41.
The Brown study was based on national emergency room reporting statistics between 2001 and 2007 on about 1.5 million motorcycle accidents. It’s important to note that researchers did not consider data on helmet use, the size of motorcycle involved or specific circumstances of each crash.