health

Diet guru Sarah Wilson says no to bike helmets.

The I Quit Sugar guru has everyone talking again. But this time it’s not for the reason you’d think….

Sarah Wilson is an avid bike rider but not so enthusiastic about the mandatory matching headwear.

The journalist, blogger, food guru and Official Quitter of Sugar posted a rather controversial picture to her Instagram account last night. The image implies that Wilson is against laws that make it compulsory to wear a bike helmet.

Via: _sarahwilson_ Instagram.

Wilson captioned the photo:

“This is what happened when mandatory helmet laws were introduced into Australia.”

The response from her followers was immediate and extremely angry. Many were concerned to see such an influential media figure arguing against devices that could potentially save lives.

This is not the first time that the sugar-free guru has made her strong opinion on bicycle helmets known.

In 2010, Wilson wrote a blog post titled “If you don’t like wearing a bike helmet, you might like to read this…“. In that article the blogger explained that it’s her personal choice not to wear a helmet (unless racing) because she believes there isn’t conclusive proof that they actually save lives.

Helmet-less Sarah Wilson.

“Helmets deter people from riding. But regular riders live longer because the health effects of cycling far outweigh the risk of death from crashing. There is ample data to back this,” Wilson argues.

Adding later that, “The ‘science’ on whether helmets actually protect us personally is very inconclusive and no randomised controlled trials have been done on the safety of bike helmets.”

While Wilson’s view is unorthodox – it’s actually a position held by a small but vocal proportion of the community. There are many who suggest compulsory wearing of the item is counterproductive, not particularly effaceable and discourages people from riding at all.

Want more Sarah Wilson? Try this… OPINION: Sarah Wilson says she knows why women get sick. And she’s wrong.

One parliamentary committee report out of Queensland last year, suggested the state consider a trial where helmets were made voluntary: “The report notes Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has compulsory helmet laws and the committee was not convinced there was sufficient worldwide evidence of the safety outcomes of compulsory helmet wearing to justify the mandating of helmet wearing for all cyclists”.

Some cycling enthusiasts argue that the environmental and health benefits of encouraging more people to ride bikes, outweigh the risks of not wearing a helmet. Professor Chris Rissell wrote for The Conversation, “In 1991 Australia introduced mandatory bicycle helmet laws requiring all adults and children to wear a helmet at all times when riding a bike, despite opposition from cycling groups. The legislation increased helmet use – from about 30 to 80% – but was coupled with a 30 to 40% decline in the number of people cycling”.

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Sarah Wilson and her bike.

But the experience in NSW of the effectiveness of compulsory bike helmet laws tells a very different story. Before the law was introduced, head injuries from bicycle accidents was always higher than arm injuries. And as we know, head injuries are likely to be far more serious.

Professors from the University of NSW, Jake Olivier, Scott Walter, Raphael Grzebieta wrote for Fairfax in 2012 that: “Between 1991 and 2010, the NSW population increased by 22 per cent. In that time, arm injuries rose by 145 per cent, yet head injuries rose by just 20 per cent (and in the past decade alone, cycling participants increased by 51 per cent)”.

Wilson herself has been the victim of a severe bicycle accident. She wrote on her blog last year about the injuries she sustained and admitted that it was ‘completely freakish’ that she wasn’t more badly injured.

“Despite propelling several metres, my front wheel coming off and my face sliding along the asphalt, I wound up with just a popped couple of ribs, some gashes and fancy bruising….” Wilson said.

“I face planted and face-slid in slow motion, and remember clearly thinking “Bugger, this is not going to be pretty”. But got up and had barely a scratch to my face. Seriously. My sunglasses had taken the full brunt of my fall. They’re shredded; my face is merely bruised!”

Bicycle accidents remain a common occurrence in Australia, as we are yet to fully respond with the necessary infrastructure and critical mass of cyclists needed to ensure better safety on the roads.

One Mamamia commenter Sue, a paramedic, can attest to the importance of wearing a helmet while riding on the road.

“I’m a paramedic and have cried over kids that I have attended to after coming off their bikes resulting in major head trauma. I’ve also attended adults on bike paths that came off their bikes resulting in head trauma. Helmets are as important to bike riders as seat belts are to car passengers.”

Another commenter was less convinced:

“I really don’t like wearing a helmet, so I don’t,” she writes. “I don’t think it’s totally necessary and I will take my chances on copping a fine for it. Lame my reason may be, but with the hair I was given, stopping for a coffee halfway along the ride is not an option for me if was to wear a helmet (which is something  else I like to do on a Sunday morning) so I will risk it. The alternative is that I just wouldn’t go on the ride. I have been riding off and on for 30 years and have never had a fall”.

For those who are riding, please remember that regardless of where you stand on this issue, wearing a helmet is currently the law. Furthermore, there is certainly absolutely zero science which says wearing a helmet can harm you – at least not beyond a slightly flattened hairstyle.

Should wearing a bike helmet should be a “personal choice” rather than a legal requirement?

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