Did BMX Rider Dave Mirra Die Because of a CTE Brain Injury?

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Earlier this month, BMX legend and road bicycle racer Dave Mirra died in an apparent suicide, causing some to ask whether he suffered a CTE brain injury. Are cyclists at risk for CTE? Is there anything you can do before this year’s bicycle season to reduce the chance of brain injury?

Dave Mirra has been called the Michael Jordan of BMX riding. He won 14 gold medals at the X Games. In 2011, he retired from the BMX world, but he didn’t hang up his wheels. In 2014, at age 40, he and his team won a five day, four person cross-country relay called Race Across America.

Did Dave Mirra Suffer From CTE?

Mirra was found dead of an apparent suicide on February 4, 2016.. In recent years, Mirra had struggled with depression. That led Dr. Julian Bailes Jr., who was featured in Will Smith’s Concussion, to say CTE was a possible cause of Mirra’s struggles. Bailes told the New York Daily News:

“As far as I know, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has not been discovered in people who do BMX racing, so I don’t know in this case. But I would say anyone who’s had exposure to multiple head injuries or concussions or cranial impacts, they certainly would be at risk for developing brain injury and later CTE — and certainly depression is one of the symptoms linked with CTE.”

Particularly, Bailes noted that Mirra’s depression could be a warning sign for CTE.

Do Cyclists Have to Worry About CTE?

Do frequent falls mean bicyclists need to be worried about CTE brain injury? Steve Broglio, from the University of Michigan told Bicycling.com:

“Cyclists have little to fear from the long-term effects of concussions. . . The way CTE is often portrayed, people think if they’ve ever had a head injury, they’re going to get CTE.”

Broglio believes increased awareness of concussions generally has improved treatment of head injuries, but the risk of CTE particularly can be “blown out of proportion.”

Guarding Against CTE While Bicycling

If Mirra’s death has you nervous, there are a few things you can do now, before Michigan’s bicycling season gets underway.

  1. Get A Baseline Neurological Assessment
    USA Cycling recommends getting a baseline neurological assessment before any injury occurs so doctors have something to measure your performance against.
  2. Learn the Concussion Watch Signs
    Study up on the symptoms of brain injury now. If your riding partner takes a fall, you will know what to look for and how to react.
  3. Get a Different Bicycle Helmet
    New, top-end bicycle helmets like the Giro Synthe MIPS can reduce rotational force, a top cause of brain injury in case of a fall.

Experts agree CTE isn’t a big threat for Michigan bicyclists. But concussions still threaten bike riders’ health. Take steps now to protect yourself i the coming bicycle season.

David Christensen is a bike accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents bicyclists struck by motor vehicles. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.