The family of a woman who suffered a serious head injury in a cycling accident have given their backing to a campaign to make cycle helmets compulsory.

Joanne Lilley, 41, from Ponteland was 36 when she fell off a bike whilst taking part in training exercise with the Territorial Army on Ascension Islands in the Atlantic.

Helmets hadn’t been provided for the bike ride which included a long and steep ascent. Joanne suffered a severe head injury when she lost control of the bike on a bend and struck her head on the road.

The Sapper in the Royal Engineers ended up in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital for two weeks and in rehabilitation for six months learning skills to cope with her injury.

She still suffers from short term memory loss, reduced concentration, fatigue, speech disturbance, reduced sense of smell and taste and deafness in her left ear.

Just a few months after the accident she was due to go on a tour of Afghanistan. As a result of her symptoms she was discharged from service on ill health grounds in 2011.

Evidence was obtained to prove that had she been wearing a cycle helmet her injuries would have been either reduced considerably or avoided entirely.

Thompsons Solicitors investigated a claim for compensation

Thompsons Solicitors was contracted to investigate a claim for compensation on her behalf. Thompsons was successful in settling the claim that includes provision for case management and support for the rest of her life.

Now the family have joined brain injury charity, Headway and Thompsons Solicitors to raise awareness about the importance of wearing cycling helmets, particularly for children.

Headway has been campaigning for helmets to be made compulsorily for all cyclists and in particular vulnerable road users like children.

Joanne’s mother, Gladys Lilley, said: “When Joanne cycled at home she always wore a helmet but on the day of the accident she wasn’t provided with one.

“Her life now is dramatically different. She was always so active and ready for anything but her memory problems mean that she needs a great deal of help and support in her daily life.

“We’d urge anyone riding a bike to wear a cycle helmet. The consequences of suffering a head injury like Joanne’s are not worth it.”

Devastating effects a brain injury can have

Alastair White North East Regional Co-ordinator of Headway added: “At Headway we know the devastating effects a brain injury can have and how easy it can be to damage the brain. A number of our service users sustained their injuries through cycling accidents. The facts show that wearing a helmet will help reduce injury and in some cases prevent it entirely. We encourage all cyclists to use their heads and wear helmets.”

Paul Brown from Thompsons Solicitors and secretary of Headway Wearside said: “Joanne’s life has been turned upside down because of the MoD’s failure to provide her with a cycle helmet on the day of the accident when the conditions were potentially treacherous. Had she been wearing a helmet her injuries would have been significantly reduced or even avoided.

“Joanne’s experience is a strong argument that everyone should be wearing cycle helmets whilst riding a bike and in particular children, who are more vulnerable to falling off their bikes.”