Why it’s more difficult than you would imagine ensuring Mountain Bike Helmet safety and what one lab is doing about it.
We wear Mountain Bike Helmets when riding bicycles for obvious reasons. According to research, more brain injuries occur when cycling than during any other sport or leisure activity. So even if we don’t want to crash when we start biking, wearing a helmet gives us the peace of mind that if we do, a thick layer of EPS foam will absorb the majority of the force.
The bottom conclusion, according to René Costales, senior category merchandising manager for bike and snow equipment at REI, is that every single bike collision is unique. “We don’t know precisely how to evaluate for a helmet’s safety in every circumstance. The uncomfortable fact about bike helmets is that.
Federal testing regulations are sluggish and out-of-date, even when Mountain Bike Helmet contain cutting-edge technology like MIPS or Wavecel to provide more protection against concussions. The majority of Mountain Bike Helmet manufacturers do their own internal testing, but the methodology or environment might distort the findings, which puts customers in a difficult situation. How much of a claim made regarding a company’s helmet can we believe?
The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab does impartial, unbiased testing of helmets for many sports, including baseball and soccer as well as football, hockey, and bicycles. They supplement the government standard test by evaluating bike helmets for their capacity to prevent brain damage.
The lab evaluated 69 bicycle helmets in all. The fact that all 20 of the best are either MIPS or Wavecel-based testifies to how well these technologies work to lessen certain rotating pressures. When compared to a standard foam helmet without a rotating component, Megan Bland, a research assistant at the Helmet Lab, believes that these new technologies are highly promising in terms of providing protection against head injuries. She almost said one was better than the other, but she stopped short.
Bland remarked, “I believe manufacturers are doing a terrific job of pushing the limits. Everyone is proving that they are better than nothing at the end of the day,
Why brain injuries from riding are so common and why it’s so difficult to investigate them
Cycling was the cause of 85,389 of the 446,788 sports-related head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009, according to statistics gathered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). With 46,948 head injuries, football came in second. Experts in helmet testing believe that cycling outnumbers football in terms of popularity. 26,000 children and adolescents get traumatic brain injuries as a result of bike accidents each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers at Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab examine how athletes get head injuries and how helmets prevent them. Even with such clear research goals, it might be challenging to get data that reveals the precise mechanism by which individuals fall off their bikes.
The most difficult real-world situation to simulate, according to Barry Miller, director of outreach for the Helmet Lab, is cycling.
The main reason it’s so difficult to get data is because bikers don’t anticipate colliding, and when they do, the specifics of every collision are different and uncommon. According to Bland, most of these consequences are unintentional or inadvertent. As a result, “we can’t ask someone to crash while wearing $10,000 worth of instruments, and we don’t have adequate footage to determine what normal cyclist head-impact circumstances are.”
how scientists evaluate bicycle helmets
All bike helmets marketed in the US are put through rigorous testing and certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC test determines how well a helmet defends against serious injuries like skull fractures by measuring linear forces—dropping a helmet vertically onto a perpendicular test surface. The test is crucial to preventing catastrophic injuries, according to experts like Bland, but it is useless for evaluating emerging rotating force-resistant technology like MIPS and Wavecel.
Although the criteria [testing] may be a kind of low bar, in my view they serve a pretty vital purpose. They assess a situation with a serious consequence.
Companies are also performing their own internal testing, and Bland noted that the context or methodology of the test often has a significant impact on the conclusion. In contrast to previous exams, Wavecel’s test included a “neck,” when others did not.
Researchers at Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab turned to the research to develop their own technique of evaluating bike helmets since there was no standard to measure the rotational component of a helmet. Bland drew on scientific material that has undergone peer review and computes the mathematical characteristics of a bicycle accident. She has also recently taken helmets from actual bicycle crashes and reverse-engineered the event to determine the impact circumstances based on the indentation in the helmet.
“If you and I were to fall off a bike, our speed would be horizontal. Bland said that we will be travelling in many ways. We would descend to the earth vertically and with some horizontal speed. We would thus truly fall at an angle.
Virginia Tech uses an anvil with a piece of sandpaper on its surface to imitate road grit while testing helmets. Each bike helmet type is put through tests in six distinct places, with high and low energies that simulate the speed and force of a cyclist falling. According to Miller, the higher energy point indicates the worst 10% of effects. About half of falls are represented by the lowest energy point.
How bicycle helmets truly protect against brain injuries
According to Bland, although hard foam may protect against linear drops, it can’t do much to prevent rotating forces from a fall from injuring the head. Even the CPSC admits that no helmet has been shown to prevent concussions; rather, the materials are intended to absorb the energy forces that happen in a fall and lead to fractures of the skull or concussions.
But some new products on the market now try to avoid concussions, which are brought on by linear, rotational, or a combination of these pressures acting on your skull.
The Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, or MIPS, is the technology that is used the most often. The MIPS system was created by academic and medical researchers in Sweden in the late 1990s, and it can be put into practically any helmet on the market. It is currently included in almost all of the major manufacturers’ helmets for cycling, skiing, and other sports.
The most popular one may be MIPS, but it’s not the only one. Bicycle helmets built with various rotating systems are widely available and all claim to do the same thing. Most recently, in March, Bontrager launched Wavecel, a plastic layer in the helmet that resembles a honeycomb and “flexes, crumples, and glides” to deflect lateral and rotational energy stresses after an impact, according to the firm. Internal tests conducted by Bontrager and its development partners show that Wavecel is 48 times more effective at preventing head trauma than a standard EPS foam helmet.
The best I can say is that, in comparison to traditional foam helmets, practically all rotating-technology helmets, including MIPS, Wavecel, and a few others, have shown promise in lowering overall concussion risks. “I believe that manufacturers are excelling at pushing the envelope. At the end of the day, I believe everyone is demonstrating that they are better than nothing, even if it often appears like there is a contest over whose technology is greatest. Overall, the outcome is so favorable. It’s pretty simple to get a little sucked into the marketing.