“Wear your helmet” is solid advice. But not as much thought is given to the differences between various helmets. The general belief is that as long as you are wearing a helmet, any helmet, your head will receive some protection in case of a fall or a crash. As death and injury rates for bicyclists grow, researchers at Virginia Tech University and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety decided it was time to analyze which helmets reduce the risk of injuries for bicyclists.
Virginia Tech performed this study which
focused on helmet impact tests to evaluate a helmet’s ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of impacts a cyclist might experience. The researchers spent months researching how cyclists were most likely to hit their heads in crashes and used that information to replicate a dozen scenarios to replicate those hits. What they found may surprise you.
Urban-style helmets (Bern, etc.) are often purchased for their sleek design and with the thought that since the helmet covers more of your head, it must give you more protection. That thought process follows the conventional wisdom that “more is better,” but this study proved it wrong. This style of helmet didn’t perform as well due to the fact that they have a thinner layer of the foam that compresses upon impact. This means that although there is more area of the head covered, the impact can still cause a significant head injury because there is less cushioning even though there is more surface area to the helmet.
One of the key findings is that a relatively new technology known as Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) can lessen the risk of concussion. Helmets that have MIPS have an inner layer that lessens the forces that cause trauma. Of the 30 helmets tested so far, only 4 of them have been awarded Virginia Tech’s top five-star rating, all of which had the MIPS technology. Of those four helmets, the prices ranged from $200 down to $75, so protecting your noggin doesn’t mean you have to break open the piggy bank.