This news story featured yesterday in the Hull Daily Mail -
A Hull man whose back was broken in two places when he was knocked from his bicycle faces a long struggle to walk again. Cliff Hattersley, 59, was cycling to his son’s house from his home in The Quadrant when he was hit side-on by a car.
Mr Hattersley was thrown from his bike by the impact and suffered two fractures in his vertebrae. X-rays revealed emergency surgery would be needed to help it fully heal.
His wife Linda said: “He couldn’t get out of the bed at hospital. He couldn’t stand up on his own. I would rather it was a broken arm or a leg but it’s such a serious thing, a back injury. It’s not something you easily recover from.”
Mr Hattersley’s son was away from his home in Priory Road, so he was heading round to check on it. As he cycled around the roundabout where Fairfax Avenue joins Cottingham Road, he was in a collision with a silver Vauxhall Astra. He did not lose consciousness and even spoke to his wife on the phone after being picked up by emergency services. It was at first thought his injuries were minor, before an X-ray revealed the bad news.
Mrs Hattersley, 59, said: “He didn’t sound too bad on the phone. He got a bang on the head and he hurt his shoulder but he never lost consciousness. I didn’t think it was that serious.”
But a CT scan revealed her husband had suffered an unstable fracture. His vertebrae was broken his in two places, meaning his back might not heal properly on its own. The family was given two choices – 12 weeks of bed rest coupled with therapy from a specialist unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, or an immediate operation.
They decided surgery was the best option, and on Friday afternoon, Mr Hattersley had screws and rods put into his back to help it heal properly. He is still in hospital and is walking only hesitantly with a zimmer frame but hopes to make a full recovery.
Mrs Hattersley said: “They’re trying to get him home at the beginning of this week. But with the pain he was in and him not being able to stand, I will just have to see how it goes when the doctors see him. It’s hard not knowing what the outcome will be yet. Once I know the outcome, I will be relieved.”
Her husband, who no longer drives, is fitted with a pacemaker and started cycling to improve his health. The couple do not yet know if he will get on a bike again.
Mrs Hattersley said: “The doctors said he will have less mobility but whether he will be able to cycle again I don’t know. He’s usually full of jokes. He’s not himself at the moment but he will get back there. There was nothing he could have done to protect himself. The police said about him having a helmet but a helmet wouldn’t have stopped a broken back.”
The crash happened just before 8am on Wednesday last week.
Well, Mrs Hattersley isn’t quite right when she argues that ‘there was nothing he could have done to protect himself’.
Her husband could have been wearing body armour.
Of course a helmet wouldn’t have protected her husband’s back! That’s just silly. No, that’s what a reinforced spine protector is for; and that’s what her husband should have been wearing. As well as a helmet.
Now there are some deluded fools out there who insist on arguing that the real solution to keeping people toddling around on bikes safe from harm is to separate them from motor vehicles to the greatest possible extent, and to ensure – through design and enforcement – that vehicles are driven slowly and carefully when mixing is unavoidable. They say that a country called ‘The Netherlands’ has apparently achieved some success in keeping people riding bikes safe with these kinds of strategies.
But trauma surgeons in Canada know better. Because they’ve seen the effects of injuries to cyclists up close.
Trauma surgeons at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary conducted a study into cycling injuries and say the risk of serious injury can be reduced and even prevented by wearing body armour.
The doctors compared injuries between street cyclists and mountain bikers over a 14-year period and looked at incidence, risk factors and injury patterns.
One of the recommendations that came out of the report is that cyclists in both groups should consider wearing chest protection.
The research study was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery and studied 258 severely injured cyclists in southern Alberta.
“Trauma to the head is still the No. 1 injury in both cycling groups, which underscores the importance of wearing a good-quality, properly fitted helmet,” says Dr. Chad Ball, the senior author of the research paper. “At the same time, almost half of the injuries we noted were either to the chest or abdomen, suggesting that greater physical protection in those areas could also help reduce or prevent serious injury.”
Yes, Canada’s cyclists are suffering serious trauma injuries all over their bodies. And not just to their heads. Isn’t it therefore completely frickin’ obvious that we should protect their entire bodies, and not just their heads?
So, use your head. Don’t just protect your head. Protect your chest and your spine. And your limbs! 38.4% of trauma injuries to cyclists are in ‘the extremities.’ Just think of the horrible consequences to your arms if you’re caught in a serious motor vehicle smash without your hard shell arm protectors. There’s no way I’d cycle anywhere without these bad boys. Even if I’m just popping to the shops. (I only have two arms, and I’d like to keep them, thanks.)
Of course, some might say we should address the so-called ‘root causes’ of those injuries, like being struck by motor vehicles travelling at high speeds, or being run over by heavy trucks, rather than taking the logical step of cladding people head to toe in safety wear.
But they haven’t seen a serious head injury, or a crushed chest. Just think how those injuries could have been very, very slightly lessened with a polystyrene helmet, or a hardened plastic thorax protector. Or reinforced limb armour.
Then you’ll understand. It’s for your own safety.