According to a new study, organ donations and transplants have surged during huge motorcycle rallies. The findings were reported in the journal ‘JAMA Internal Medicine.’ The study found that during the seven major motorcycle rallies staged in the United States between 2005 and 2021, there were 21% more organ donors per day on average and 26% more transplant receivers per day on average, as compared to days shortly before and after the rallies.
Large-scale motorcycle rallies draw hundreds of thousands of people, and past research has indicated that these events are associated with an increase in severe injuries and deaths from motor vehicle accidents.
The current study sought to determine if these events were associated with increases in organ donation and transplantation in the locations where they were hosted.
The researchers asked if organ donations increased in tandem with trauma-related mortality. They did it. Was the quality of organs given affected by clinical or demographic disparities among donors during rallies? There wasn’t any.
“The spikes in organ donations and transplantations that we found in our analysis are disturbing, even if not entirely surprising, because they signal a systemic failure to avoid preventable deaths, which is a tragedy,” said study first author David Cron, HMS clinical fellow in surgery at Mass General. “There is a clear need for better safety protocols around such events.”
“At the same time, it is important for transplant communities in places where these events are held to be aware of the potential for increased organ donors during those periods. Organ donation is often called the gift of life, and we should make sure that we do not squander it and can turn any of these tragic deaths into a chance to potentially save other lives,” added Cron, who is also a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Center for Surgery and Public Health, where he is part of a group interested in understanding how policy decisions and other factors, both inside and outside the health care system, affect efforts to improve the supply of organs for transplantation.
The researchers estimated changes in the incidence of donation and transplants in regions that hosted rallies using data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients for deceased organ donors aged 16 and older involved in a motor vehicle crash and recipients of organs from those donors from March 2005 to September 2021.
Researchers examined data from 10,798 organ donors and 35,329 receivers in the areas where the highlighted motorcycle rallies are held. During the rally days, there were 406 organ donors and 1,400 transplant patients in the surrounding areas. There were 2,332 organ donors and 7,714 transplant recipients in those regions during the four weeks preceding and after the rallies.
They compared rally dates to the days before and after the rallies. To rule out the effect of other factors unrelated to bike rallies, the researchers compared numbers from rally areas with other regions that were not influenced by the rallies, and then examined trends in rally regions at other times of the year.
They also analysed the donors’ demographic and clinical features, as well as the quality of organs donated during and after rallies. They discovered no statistically significant differences.
Whether there was a rally or not, key features of transplant recipients, such as how long they had been waiting for an organ and how bad their disease was at the time of transplant, were identical. The researchers concluded that the rise in the number of accessible organs was insufficient to alleviate the nation’s urgent shortage of donor organs, even if only temporarily.
Cron further stated that the data provided was insufficient to determine whether the donors died in motorcycle accidents or in passenger cars. Bike rallies are often enormous, packed events held in rural areas or tiny towns with traffic infrastructure designed for far smaller populations and significantly less traffic, according to the study. This implies that, in order to improve overall safety for all motorists and pedestrians, event organisers should focus on general traffic management in addition to advocating helmet use and safe motorcycle operating.
Over the course of many days, each of the seven motorcycle rallies in the study attracts more than 200,000 visitors. Daytona Bike Week in Florida and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota each pull 500,000 people over a 10-day period.
There are several economic and personal benefits for the communities that host the rallies and the individuals who attend. Understanding all of an event’s potential implications, on the other hand, can help organisers and attendees prepare better in order to reduce the possibility of unpleasant “side effects,” according to the researchers.
The paper is the latest in a series examining the often-unanticipated effects of large-scale public events on the health system by senior author Anupam Jena, the Joseph P. Newhouse Professor of Health Care Policy in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS. His previous work in this area includes studies that found that firearm injuries decrease nationwide during NRA conventions, that high-risk patients with certain acute heart conditions are more likely to survive than other, similar patients if admitted to the hospital during national cardiology meetings, and that people who suffer heart attacks or cardiac arrests near a major marathon are more likely to die within a month due to d.
“Nothing in life is ever completely safe. Our priority should be to make risky events like motorcycle rallies as safe as they can be,” Jena said. “But it’s also critical to have a clear understanding of how these events impact the health of individuals and the health care systems that we all rely on so that we can give participants, event organizers, and policymakers the context and data they need to make smart choices.”