Thursday, September 16, 2010

The revealing 'it's counter-intuitive' claim

(Photos: Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, September 16, 2010)
The platform for the helmet debate continues to be provided by mainstream media. At last the reporting of academic research in today's "Head case" article has been widened beyond the ancient, worn out Thompson & Rivara study.

Notwithstanding why does the first and last word on the efficacy of bicycle helmets have to be left to a doctor when clearly this is outside his area of expertise? Neurosurgeons deal with brains and brain injuries, not bicycle helmet mechanics.

Moreover, stating...

"It's counter-intuitive to me; why would it make things worse?" That doesn't make any sense to me"

...can hardly be considered authoritative - it's so subjective, so 'flat-earthy'!

In fact such a statement appears to rely on gut feelings!

Is that really how we want our legislators to make our laws - on medico/political gut feelings?

History is littered with resulting flawed policies & procedures. Consider how long it took to convince doctors that the safest sleeping position for babies was on their backs - this despite the data being available for decades.

So why oh why, Mr SMH Editor, did you allow non-expert opinion to conclude your almost balanced article?


  1. The debate seems to be gathering momentum finally.

    I am sure you have seen it but this is another very balanced article:

  2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, dear doctor... Many things in life are, in fact, counterintuitive - now that is counterintuitive isn't it!

    Opinions such as this should not qualify as 'evidence'.

    Helmet LAWS must go. If drugs were based on such evidence then they would be withdrawn... oh, yes... they have been!

    Do you realise that the oft-quoted studies by Thompson & Rivara are partly or wholly funded by the Snell Corporation - which has close ties with the helmet industry?

    Cheers Sue and keep it up!

    Dr Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

  3. Edward, brilliant article and no, I hadn't - thank you so much - in fact my daughter in Egypt read your comment, followed your link, & has since emailed me to agree with you wholeheartedly!!

    Paul, I have always believed that the modus operandi for Big Helma is identical to that of Big Pharma

  4. There is a lot of talk about statistics and expert opinions, what's right and what's an abuse of civil liberties. I think I'm qualified as an expert as I have been a road cyclist for about 22 years. Let me start by saying that if I was a gambling man, I would put all my money on a totally different outcome if I chose not to wear a helmet in reference to a bike crash I had in Adelaide about 10 years ago. Lucky for me I awoke in the trauma ward of the RAH and only sustained concussion, missing teeth and a broken arm. The side impact on my helmet was horrendous and I believe this protection encompassing my skull saved my life. When you are cycling at 40 km/h and a car in front of you does an illegal turn it doesn't matter how good a rider you are if they don't see you. I'm grateful that I don't have memory of the impact as it was such a traumatic experience and my brain has decided that it will not serve any positive purpose to hold on to it. I'm also extremely grateful that I am able to share my life with my wife and two beautiful little girls who also cycle with helmets firmly fastened on their heads every time we leave for a social bike ride (something that I may not have been able to do if I had decided not to wear a helmet 10 years ago). I'm not convinced that this website is setting the best example possible for our children and younger generation. As I've found out the hard way as a road cyclist, who religiously obeys all road rules, every now and again, the control is taken away by a road user who thinks that they can make up their own rules. For this reason I will always wear a helmet to enable me to continue living the life of my dreams.

  5. Hi, let me first state that everyone should have the right to wear a bike helmet if they wish & if they feel safer. The main point that Sue makes is that it should not be mandatory. People should be able to study the evidence and decide for themselves. As someone who was a mad keen cyclist for 29 yrs I actually gave up when I emigrated for more than 10 yrs because I hate wearing a helmet so much. I began cycling again 3 yrs ago once my hatred of being fat overtook my hatred of bike helmets. How many people in Australia are living unhealthy lives for the same reason?

  6. One of the things I find crazy is the new bike hire scheme being set up in Brisbane which starts next month. Are politicians really so dumb to think that this initiative will be a success like it's European counterparts? Can't they see it will fail because of the stupid helmet laws? Either people will not use it because they need a helmet and helmets are not being made available @ the same location as the bikes or it will fail because the police will be standing at the bike racks writing tickets out. Either way it will be a disastrous waste of tax payers money and make us look like a bunch of idiots to our International tourists.

  7. Mat and anons: great to hear from you all, and yes in a nutshell, bicycle helmets should be a matter of choice, not a legal requirement.

    After all, this is a health issue, not a criminal one!