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March 30, 2014

Man Files $15 million Lawsuit Against NYC Citi Bike Claiming Smell Loss From Bike Crash

Image by Pharos of Wikipedia
In 2013, a man rented a bicycle from New York City's Citi Bike program. Apparently while riding this rental bike, the front wheel struck a wheelstop installed near a bicycle docking station which the man did not notice, flipping him resulting in head trauma. This head trauma resulted in permanent smell and taste loss. [link]

The wheelstop is meant to prevent cars from from backing into bike stations, but the lawsuit alleges "no cones or colored warnings to alert a bicyclist of its existence... constituted a trap for the unwary."

Regardless of the legal merits of the case, how does head trauma like this cause smell and taste loss?

The smell nerve is located right between the eyes and is analogous to the roots of a plant where the plant is the nerve next to the brain and the roots are the nerve endings that go through the skull bone (cribiform plate) and into the nose where "smell" is detected (the yellow in pic below). With significant head trauma, the brain suddenly moves and "bounces" around in the skull when struck. When this happens, the delicate smell nerve endings which are going through the bone "tear" when the brain moves relative to the bone.

With such nerve damage, smell can be permanently lost. With complete smell loss, taste can be adversely affected given so much of flavor is attributable to smell. As such, the man can technically probably still taste (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, etc), but not smell.

BTW... Did you know that the tongue taste map we all learn in school is incorrect?


Source:
Conn. man files $15 million lawsuit against NYC, Citi Bike, claiming nerve damage from bike crash. Daily News 2/27/14
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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