Bike helmets require more rigorous safety testing, new study finds

Photo credit: Jason Frank

  • Bike helmets are designed to protect you from traumatic brain injury (TBI), but testing them in a way that mimics real-world falls and crashes has been lacking, a new study suggests.

  • Current manufacturers’ methods tend to test helmets with right angle drops, which is how you would land if the bike was stationary.

  • The research describes a new method of helmet test where the crash test dummies hit the ground at an angle as they moved – basically the way you fell off a bike.

  • However, previous research indicates that helmets still significantly reduce the risk of skull fractures and the like. TBI, it is therefore important to wear one while riding.

Bicycle helmets are designed to protect you against a head trauma (TBI), but testing them in a way that mimics real-world drops and crashes was lacking, a new study suggests.

Posted in Annals of Biomedical Engineering, research describes a new method of testing that includes evaluating the integrity of the helmet when subjected to what’s called an oblique impact – hitting the ground at an angle as you move. Basically the way you fell from a bicycle.

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Current manufacturers’ methods tend to test helmets with right-angle drops, the researchers noted – this is how you would land if the bike was stationary. While you can certainly fall this way, the majority of accidents tend to involve rotational force and movement, lead researcher Fady Abayazid, Ph.D. (c), in the Human experience, analysis and design laboratory (HEAD) at Imperial College London, said Ride a bike.

The researchers compared 27 helmets, two older styles without a lot of cushioning, and newer models with tech, such as friction-reducing layers, shear pads, and impact-triggered airbags.

Crash test dummies were fitted with accelerometers and placed head first, side first and back first on a 45-degree surface covered with sandpaper, to simulate asphalt. They also threw the mannequins in the fall at 14 miles per hour, which is common. cycling speed. Stitch points were selected based on reports from just over 1000 previous bicycle accidents.

Researchers found that new technology reduced stress throughout the brain compared to older headsets. However, they also concluded that some new helmets designed to reduce rotational forces did not live up to their claims.

“This shows us that designers and makers in the helmet industry should take head rotation that occurs during oblique impacts more seriously, in both design and test standards,” said Abayazid. “While some technologies are promising, it’s important to educate ourselves as cyclists about the real quality of these technologies, as well as their shortcomings.”

While the study didn’t cover what might happen if you don’t wear a helmet at all, the study co-author Mazdak Ghajari, Ph.D., senior lecturer at the HEAD laboratory at Imperial College London, said Ride a bike that previous research indicates that helmets significantly reduce the risk of skull fractures.

These TBIs can have fatal consequences, he said, but even if they don’t, there can be considerable damage to the white matter in your brain as well as to the blood vessels.

“These TBIs may not necessarily be life threatening immediately, but can potentially have life changing effects,” Ghajari said. These wounds can occur not only with cycling, but with any sport or activity that has potential falls, especially at higher speeds and with rotational forces – for example, rock climbing, horseback riding, or skateboarding .

Take-out meals? Urge manufacturers to perform more effective testing, Abayazid said. And in the meantime, always wear a helmet.

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