Cycling without a bicycle helmet is highly dangerous and cyclists need to be aware of the consequences of cycling unprotected, said Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (ABI Ireland).

“Research shows that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head or brain injury and facial injury by 65% – 88%[1]. Taking responsibility and wearing a helmet may help prevent loss of life or facial injuries in the event of an accident. “Helmet-wearing must become accepted as good practice.” It is estimated that more than 10,000 people are impacted by ABI in Ireland every year. Founded in 2000, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, formerly The Peter Bradley Foundation, is the Irish national organisation which provides support and services for people with an acquired brain injury (ABI). This reminder is part of the Acquired Brain Injury Ireland’s Mind Your Head campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of the serious consequences of not wearing protective headgear in various every day situations such as cycling, working or playing sports. There is currently no funded voluntary organisation in Ireland which deals with people who have suffered facial injuries as a result of an accident.

The psychological effects of facial injuries for people and in particular those aged between 15-35 can be devastating. Facial disfigurement can result in a severe loss of confidence and can cause long term psychological suffering often to resurface long after the aesthetic healing is underway. Dublin based Solicitor Carol Sinnott who was involved in a Road Traffic accident at the age of 12 spent her entire teenage years undergoing surgery in respect of the facial injuries what she sustained as a result of a road traffic accident when cycling. She admits that “wearing a helmet back then wasn’t really the done thing and it would have been unusual to see a person wearing one”. She currently Practices as a Solicitor in Rathmines and has taken a number of personal injury cases and claims with a particular interest in taking facial injuries claims and claims dealing with facial disfigurements. She said she that can identify fully and empathise with those people with facial injuries. When asked if it is difficult for her to advise people in light of her own experience she states “Obviously the focus is on my clients getting better and getting all of the treatment and psychological support necessary to help them recover because no amount of money could compensate a person for living with a facial disfigurement on a daily basis. I have been very lucky and never in a million years would I have thought that I could recover to the extent that I have. I had the most dedicated surgeons looking after me for years and they almost became like my friends”. She recalls being pointed at, stared at in the street and jeered as a kid. “People can’t help but to look at somebody when they are different. It’s human nature I suppose. Thankfully there are so many treatments and psychological supports there for people with facial injuries now that didn’t exist in the past. The problem with facial injuries is that they can take a life time to heal and even when something looks just about as good as it’s going to look there will always be some treatment or other available with maxillofacial advances in the area and there may be future treatments down the line”.

According to Carol Sinnott there’s also a myth that Courts will award higher damages for facial injuries to girls. There has been a significant shift in that regard and it is now well established that a facial disfigurement to a person, whether male or female is traumatic and life changing. It’s important for people to know that when they seek compensation for facial injuries that the psychological damage and long term effects of the injury are compensated for fully.

Approximately 10,000 people suffer from a head injury in Ireland each year and face a dramatically altered life thereafter. People with ABI progress at different rates, and may need to access services at different points in time as their needs change. Within each stage of rehabilitation a range of different service providers is involved, which must be coordinated. Once back in the community the emphasis is on more extended activities of daily living, integration, and return to work or education. Interventions focus on enhanced participation, improved quality of life, psychological adjustment and carer stress. Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is filling a vital service gap, in collaboration with statutory bodies. It is hoped that facial injuries sufferers and support organisations will receive government funding in the future.

[1] ‘Helmets for Preventing Head and Facial Injuries in Bicyclists (Cochrane Review)” DC Thompson et al, Issue 1, 2003

This Article appeared in post.ie on 6th April 2011 written by Joe McCaffrey