Large motorcycle rallies linked to rise in organ donations, study finds


Virus Outbreak Sturgis
Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, Bikers ride down Main Street during the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D. Amy Harris/Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Large motorcycle rallies linked to rise in organ donations, study finds

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Motorcycle rallies that draw thousands of attendees can increase regional rates of motor vehicle fatalities and traumatic injuries, leading to a rise in the number of organ donations and transplants during these events, a new study finds.

There were, on average, 21% more organ donors per day and 26% more transplant recipients per day during the days of the rallies compared to the days before and after the event in the regions where America’s seven largest motorcycle rallies were held between 2005 and 2021, according to an analysis from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.


“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 David Cron, a clinical fellow in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the study. “There is a clear need for better safety protocols around such events.”

The study suggested that additional safety measures are needed at large rallies, such as the Atlantic Beach Bikefest in South Carolina, Daytona Bike Week in Florida, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, to prevent deaths, noting that hospitals should be aware that these events might lead to an increase in organ donations.

“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,” Cron said.

Researchers analyzed records from a transplant registry for deceased organ donors 16 years and older that were involved in a motor vehicle crash and recipients of those organs. In total, the study included over 10,000 organ donors and more than 35,000 recipients of organs in regions where the motorcycle rallies were held.

Previous studies have associated motorcycle rallies with an increase in traumatic injuries or road fatalities. A study back in 2003 looked at motorcycle crashes during the annual Daytona Beach Bike Week in 2000 and found that 570 people were involved in 281 motorcycle-related crashes, 11 of whom died.


Earlier this year, one person died and 34 other crashes were reported during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew nearly 500,000 vehicles during the 10-day event, according to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

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