In 26 years as a sports reporter, I think this is the first time I've covered a story that I've actually been a part of. Almost always in our business, you are telling stories of what others have done or experienced.
As it should be.
I'm fortunate to be able to tell this one... thanks to a bike helmet. Along those lines, I've been encouraged by a number of people in the cycling community to share my story... So here it goes.
Back in September, I was riding back from morning workout on the Amherst path. It was around noon on a sunny Thursday. I was passing through the intersection of Campbell and North French with a green light, and the right of way, when a motorist coming from the other direction cut in front of me while making a left turn through the intersection.
Benigni: "The Helmet Made All The Difference"
The impact left me with a concussion, a small brain bleed, four lost teeth, some good bumps and bruises, and significant cuts in and around my mouth.
Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet that did its job. The helmet dented and the foam inside cracked as it is designed to do, absorbing the force of my head hitting the pavement. I don't know if it saved my life, but at the very least, it prevented what would likely have been a fractured skull and who knows what else. As it is, I lost consciousness and still have no memory of about a 20 or 30 minute period after the impact. I remember waking up in the ambulance on the way to ECMC.
The helmet made all the difference in the split second when it mattered most.
What I've learned since, is that cycling accidents are the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries when you factor in people of all ages taking part in recreational activities. This is well known in medical circles, but perhaps not as well known among the general public. The CDC estimates less than 50-percent of riders in the U.S. wear helmets, despite the fact an Australian based worldwide study in 2016 suggested helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injury by 70-percent, and of fatal head injury by 65-percent.
My outcome supports those statistics.
Other cyclists, including Mike Billoni, who was struck by a drunk driver near Crystal Beach across the border 25-years ago this fall, and John Olsen who simply crossed a set of railroad tracks the wrong way last July near Canalside, are able to share their stories because they wore a helmet while riding.
Dr. John Leddy who is the Medical Director at the UB Concussion Clinic shares many of the reasons why it is important for cyclists of all ages to wear helmets.
New York State law only requires kids under the age of 13 and under to wear helmets. Those 14 and older who don't wear them are perfectly within their right. But the numbers and the increased knowledge in the medical community tell a very clear story.
I can tell you firsthand, the results speak for themselves.