Jill Doerfler, M.D., has seen up close and personal what can happen during a bicycle or motorcycle accident. She has treated people who have been injured and acknowledged that she has been “pretty banged up” herself.
But, overall, there is one constant when it comes to bike accidents: a helmet greatly reduces the risk of brain injury.
“It is not only traumatic brain injury that concerns us,” Dr. Doerfler said. “One relatively simple concussive episode can linger for years. It can have adverse effects on memory and concentration, even to the point of not being able to perform simple math problems.
“And if it happens a second time, the results can be even worse,” she added. “If you injure your brain, there is no going back. Road rash and a broken bone will heal. You can fix a bone but you cannot re-wire the brain.”
Dr. Doerfler’s practice is at St. Rose Family Medicine where she treats patients with a variety of injuries, conditions and diseases.
“Now that summer is here, more people of all ages are out on their bikes,” Dr. Doerfler said. “It is great exercise but a number of precautions are highly recommended.”
One big precaution is protection against head and brain injury by wearing a helmet properly.
“I see people all the time wearing a helmet incorrectly,” Dr. Doerfler said. “It should fit snugly on the top of your head so that the forehead is protected. The chinstrap should be secure too.
“Cyclists also should get a new helmet after an accident,” she continued. “There could be cracks that weaken the helmet, even if you can’t see them. There are regulations about the manufacture of helmets and any reputable retailer sells good ones.”
Those who ride motorcycles should wear the full-face variety, she added. “Some people say they can’t see well enough, but I have never had a problem with a full-face helmet,” she said.
And she has the experience to back up her advice. Before she became a physician, Dr. Doerfler served the Wichita Police Department for seven years on bicycle, horse and motorcycle patrols.
“I have been pretty banged up,” she said. “But my head is okay because of the helmet.”
During her medical career, Dr. Doerfler has treated a number of cycle accident victims. In one case, two motorcyclists became wedged underneath a semi.
“Both had helmets and both were able to talk to me and tell me what was happening,” she recalled. “They escaped brain injury.”
Dr. Doerfler mentioned other cycling recommendations. They include: wearing light-colors and/or reflective colors; and being equipped with a headlight and a taillight.
And, she noted, motorcyclists should wear denim and gloves. “Don’t wear tee-shirts and shorts,” she cautioned.
St. Rose specializes in primary care, prevention and wellness. Services include St. Rose Family Medicine, Convenient Care Walk-in Clinic, Great Bend Internists, imaging, infusion clinic, WellnessWorks, one-day surgical procedures, Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice and a comprehensive Specialty Clinic. St. Rose is co-owned by Hays Medical Center and Centura Health.