Motorcycle rallies are known for their noise, chrome, and leather goggles — but they can also lead to something else: organs for transplant.
A study published in JAMA internal medicine found that the number of organ donors and transplant recipients increased significantly during large gatherings in areas hosting the events compared to before or after the gatherings.
The cities that organize the rallies and the motorcycle enthusiasts who participate in them can benefit from social and economic advantages. But understanding the possible health consequences can help attendees and organizers anticipate risks and make plans to minimize them, researchers say.
“Our priority should be to make risky events like motorcycle rallies as safe as possible,” said Anupam Jena, MD, PhD, professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston and co-author of the news. study. in a press release. “But it is also essential to have a clear understanding of the impact of these events on the health of individuals and on the healthcare systems we all rely on so that we can give attendees, event organizers and decision makers the context and data they need to make smart choices.”
Researchers say that while donation education, outreach and donor registration could help prevent excessive morbidity and mortality from motorcycle deaths, organ procurement organizations may be able to maximize rates. gift.
The number of motorcyclists has increased from 4.8 million in 2002 to 8.6 million in 2021, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Motorcycles were linked to 10% of transportation-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A 2011 study published in The Journal of Law and Economics found that each year, 12% of organ donors involve motorcycle-related deaths.
For the new study, Jena and her colleagues analyzed data from seven major motorcycle gatherings across the United States, including events in Sturgis, South Dakota – reputed to be the largest such congregation in the world – Austin, Texas, Daytona Beach, Florida and Laconia, New Hampshire. The massive gatherings attract hundreds of thousands of visitors over the course of several days. Sturgis and Daytona each regularly attract 500,000 or more bikers.
The researchers found that there were 406 organ donors and 1,400 transplant recipients on the dates of the gatherings. There were 2,332 donors and 7,714 transplant recipients in the assembly areas immediately following the assembly dates.
Compared to the 4 weeks before and after the rallies, the number of organ donors and organ transplants increased by 21% and 26% respectively per day in the areas that hosted the events compared to their usual levels, according to the researchers.
To rule out factors unrelated to cycle rallies, researchers compared numbers from rally locations with data from other regions not affected by rallies, then assessed trends in rally regions at other times in the cycle. year, according to the press release.
Deceased donors accounted for 84% of transplant donations, researchers say.
Large crowds and congested roads, as well as the fatigue of motorcyclists traveling long distances to and from rallies, explain the increase in organ transplants, researchers say. They also attribute the increase to the ability of organ procurement organizations to identify potential donors and maximize organs used per transplant.
The number of organ donors increased by 14% per day during the gatherings, according to the researchers. However, the number of available organs was not sufficient to address the critical shortage of donor organs the nation faces, even for a brief period, they report.
The average number of organs donated was three, saving an average of eight lives per donation, according to Grace Yuan Zhang, MD, resident at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and Mitchell H. Katz, MD, CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals, New York City’s municipal health and hospital system, in an editorial accompanying the journal article.
“The results are a reminder to practice safety when engaging in high-risk activities and to consider becoming an organ donor to help save lives,” they write.
Data for the study was provided by the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute, which is a subcontractor to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The relevant financial relationships of the authors are listed in the original article.
Intern JAMA Med. Published online November 28, 2022.
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