Older motorcyclists aged 60 and older are three times more likely to be severely injured in a crash than younger bikers.

The finding came from a new US study and was published in the journal Injury Prevention.

The results are concerning, explained the researchers, considering there is a rising number of older adults owning a motorcycle, and their increasing likelihood to be involved in an accident.

A previous report indicated that older bikers are more likely to be injured or die because of a motorcycle accident than younger bikers.

The percentage of American bikers aged 50 and older has significantly increased, from 1 in 10 in 1990 to 1 in 4 in 2003. The most common age of people involved in a motorbike accident has been constantly going up, with injury rates among those 65 and older increasing 145% between 2000 and 2006.

Therefore, the scientists set out to examine reports of serious motor cycle crashes that called for emergency care. The data were taken from the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) between 2001 and 2008.

The experts identified 1.5 million motorcycle accidents that involved people over the age of 20 who received emergency care. Eighty-five percent of these crashes involved men.

The most common injury type and rate of occurrence were examined by age group in order to identify any differences:

  • ages 20 to 30 – 921,229 incidents
  • ages 40 to 59 – 466,125 incidents
  • ages 60 and over – 65,660

Between 2001 and 2008, there was a rise in injury rates for all of the groups. However, those aged 60 and older experienced the greatest increase of injury rate – 247%. Motorcyclists aged 60 and older were also 3 times as likely to need hospital care after a bike accident as those in their 20s and 30s.

Bikers aged 40 to 59 were twice as likely to be taken to the hospital after a crash than the younger bikers.

The authors said:

Both older and middle aged bikers were also significantly more likely to be seriously injured than young bikers, with older bikers 2.5 times as likely to sustain serious injuries and middle aged bikers 66% more likely to do so.

The severity of injury was linked to greater rates of hospitalization, according to the team. Older adults had a higher chance of being taken to a hospital to receive care for both severe and less serious injuries.

The most frequent injuries were dislocations and fractures for all 3 groups. However, the experts discovered that older and middle aged bikers had a notably higher chance of sustaining this kind of injury than the younger age group, especially around the chest and rib cage.

The investigators added:

“They were also significantly more likely to have sustained internal organ damage, with the brain the most common site. This is worrying, given that head and chest injuries are associated with the lowest rate of survival among bikers.”

“The greater severity of injuries among older adults may be due to the physiological changes that occur as the body ages,” they explained.

For example, older adults may experience:

  • alterations in body fat distribution
  • dwindling bone strength
  • decreasing elasticity in the chest wall

The risk of developing complications also rises with underlying illnesses, the authors pointed out.

Although this report did not look at the kind of bike involved in each accident, past research has demonstrated that older adults tend to operate bikes with bigger engines than younger bikers. Evidence has also shown that larger engines are associated with more severe crash injuries.

Written by Sarah Glynn