June 16, 2014

Maybe we should start painting helmets on bike path figures.     Photo: Golf_chalermchai/ThinkStock

Wear Your Helmet! Bike Shares Linked to Brain Trauma

14 percent increase in brain-injury risk

A group of researchers from Canada and the United States interested in correlations between brain trauma and bike shares discovered a 14 percent greater risk for bike-related brain traumas in cities that had such programs compared to cities without bike shares.

Before bike shares, brain-related injuries made up 42.3 percent of these cities' injury pie. Afterward, they made up 50.1 percent. The study doesn't imply that cyclists were injured more often, but that comprehensively, brain-related injuries are making up a larger portion of total injuries.

The researchers used a control group of cities without bike-share programs, such as Seattle and Minneapolis, which saw no change in brain trauma admissions, at 35.9 percent.

"The study basically confirmed our worries," said Janessa Graves, lead author of the study published Thursday, in an interview with NPR. "Public bike-share initiatives are great wellness initiatives … But without providing helmets, we were concerned that we would see an increase in head injuries. And we did."

It's important to recognize that the study's interpretations don't account for a lot: an uptick in overall bike usage in each city, whether people were injured on bike-share bikes or their own, or even whether other types of injuries declined so much that brain injuries only seem more common. But the data supports the idea that bike-share users, who have to bring their own helmets or risk their noggins, might not be protecting themselves as best they can.

In spite of this, starting bike shares has helped a number of cities get a handle on the health and wellness of their populations. In Montreal, researchers found that not only did people's commute times decrease about 20 percent when they switched to bikes, but also that men saw decreased heart disease while women became less depressed overall. Additionally, bike-share users had lower injury rates than cyclists in general, likely due to eye-catching infrastructure such as bike paths and lights and the use of bigger, heavier bicycles.

More Bike-Share Coverage from Outside

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Here they come to save the day.     Photo: Fernando Stankuns/Flickr

Can "Super Bananas" Save Africa?

Genetically engineered fruit fights malnutrition

A project by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to produce "super bananas" as a means to combat malnutrition in impoverished African nations.

As Time reports, several banana varieties will be enriched with alpha- and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. The project is seeking to have several crops growing in Uganda by 2020. A first crop of genetically engineered bananas has been sent to the United States, where six weeks of human testing is expected to begin shortly.

If successful, the project could be instrumental in improving health conditions, especially for children, in places such as Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where vitamin A deficiency is a rampant problem.

Project leader Professor James Dale was quoted in the Telegraph as saying, "The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire, with 650,000 to 700,000 children worldwide dying ... each year and at least another 300,000 going blind."

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Now, winding roads and desert highways are yours to record—as long as you have a GoPro and a Bimmer.     Photo: Doug Hagadorn/Flickr

BMW and GoPro Partner for In-Car Camera

Record every trip around the block

Starting in July, new BMWs and Minis, or properly equipped later models, will have adventure-recording abilities, thanks to a new partnership between the automaker and GoPro.

Owners wanting to record their auto adventures will need a Wi-Fi connection, the GoPro app installed on their iPhone, a connection between the phone and the automobile, and a camera affixed to the dashboard. Then, users will be able to stream almost-live video footage to the dashboard screen—but only while the Bimmer is parked.

The camera is controlled and configured through iDrive and allows users to aim the camera, start and stop recording, and select between six camera modes—from "Winding Road Time-Lapse" to "Night Driving"—through the auto's infotainment dashboard screen. 

For the makers and motor enthusiasts alike, the partnership has been a natural next step for both companies. "GoPro has deep roots in motorsports and is passionate about enabling drivers to capture their road or track experience," said Adam Silver, GoPro's director of strategic product opportunities, in the official press release. "The GoPro and BMW collaboration sets a new standard in the category and is an important first step in a partnership designed to deliver next-level integration between camera and car."

This isn't the first time automakers and cameras have been around the block together. Chevy released the Performance Data Recorder in its 2015 Corvette, and Volkswagon is giving GoPro cameras to early buyers of the 2015 GTI.

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Retired German racing legend Michael Schumacher was comatose for six months before doctors decided to start withdrawing sedatives in an effort to wake him.     Photo: exit1979/Flickr

Michael Schumacher Emerges from Coma

Ski accident victim looking at long recovery

At the end of December, a skiing accident left seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher in a medically induced coma, with doctors saying he might not survive. Today his manager announced that Schumacher is no longer in a coma and is moving to a Swiss hospital for a long recovery process.

This comes as quite a surprise because little has been said of Schumacher's health aside from an early April announcement that he was showing some signs of consciousness. Schumacher was skiing in the French Alps when he fell and hit his head on a rock, splitting his helmet in two. Helmet-cam footage showed that he'd been skiing off-trail at the time, which rekindled a discussion on the extent to which helmets protect us from traumatic brain injuries, especially as many people end up increasing their risky behavior. Still, many doctors said that Schumacher's helmet saved his life.

Not much more information is available now, as Schumacher's family continues to request as much privacy as possible, and the extent of his head injury is still unclear. Dr. Tipu Aziz of Oxford University told the Associated Press that Schumacher likely suffered long-term side effects if he is going into rehabilitation, though he should at least be able to support his own breathing and bodily functions if he has been released from the hospital.

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