Helmets: why cycling, skiing, skateboarding helmets don’t workPosted: August 15, 2012
Thanks to Brad Waldron at Kali Protectives for giving me the visual to explain this.
A helmet needs to absorb energy to work. The more energy a helmet absorbs the more protection a helmet provides. If you look at the inside of your helmet
what is there to absorb energy?
A helmet does not work by being a hard surface to protect your head from head injuries. Hard surfaces protect your head from pointed objects. Think Knights of the Round Table and spears and arrows. If you are riding a bike or skiing and someone is shooting arrows at you, you need a hard helmet.
Hitting the ground is different. Your brain bounces around inside your skill causing damage; a concussion. You need something to absorb the impact and soften the blow or extend the time the impact (force) is being applied to your head, which softens the blow. Helmets as they are currently used, do not do that.
Think about the issue this way. If you drop a weight on an egg, say 11 pounds from 4 feet the egg is going to smash. If you put a book on top of the egg and drop the 11-pound weight the egg is still going to smash. The amount of energy transmitted to the egg maybe reduced by the book; however, the energy reduction is not enough to protect the egg.
A Bicycle or ski helmet is the same way. There is some energy absorption, but not enough to protect your brain.
If you want to know why I picked 11 pounds from 4 feet that is the test for helmets. Watch Video of cycling helmet testing. No one is testing the force on the head, if the helmet absorbs any of the force, or if the impact broke your neck.
On top of that, always remember the helmet is tested with the impact landing in the center top of the helmet. When you fall to make sure you drive your head into the ground hitting the helmet in the center on top of your head to receive the maximum protection.
See for yourself. This is the UIAA (European) Test for Helmets.
This test is for climbing and some European ski helmets. In the US, a bike helmet and ski helmets are not tested for lateral force, slippage or chin strap strength.
There are some organizations that test the helmets to greater extremes such as Consumer Reports, but all they are doing is testing the helmet. They are not looking at whether the helmet protects your head. See Consumer Reports Bike Helmet Testing.
We are not testing whether a helmet looks good after an impact. We are testing whether the helmet protects your head from an impact and the drop test does not test that sufficiently, if at all.
If you want to test this yourself, figure a way to stick an egg under a helmet and drop a weight on the helmet. The egg is still going to crack or break.
Yes, your head is not an egg. It is just easier to see the results with an egg. The helmet did not decrease the pressure enough to protect the egg. The injury still occurred. If you could take the time to measure the breaking strength of an egg and then start below that number and drop weights on the helmet you would see a difference eventually which would be the amount of protections the helmet provides. However, that number would be small and probably no different from what a plastic bowl would do.
If you really want to test this, go buy two eggs. Drop one from 15 feet and see what happens to the egg. Tape the other one in your helmet and drop it from the same height. The egg will crack (and make a real mess in your helmet).
Want more laughs about this? Watch this video where a cardboard helmet does a better job of protecting your head, by absorbing more force, than a bicycle helmet. See Kranium helmet Crash Test
Yes, your head is not an egg. Yes, a helmet will protect you from minor hits. Yes, a helmet is probably better than not using a helmet, unless the process stops you from riding a bike or skiing. The health benefits of activity out weight the risk of a head injury.
If that is the case, then why not wear a helmet when you drive, shower or work in the kitchen. All three have a far greater risk of head injuries then cycling.
However, we have not looked at whether using helmets deters activities. See TEDxCopenhagen – Mikael Colville-Andersen – Why We Shouldn’t Bike with a HelmetI love the fact the in the video Mr. Colville-Andersen lets you know that the helmet tests were designed for pedestrians wearing helmets. Also he points out that helmet laws do not reduce head injuries. They reduce the total number of people riding bikes, which results in a reduction of head injuries.
Nor have we looked at the issue of the advertised protection versus the real protection afforded by a helmet.
Finally, we have not looked at whether wearing a helmet makes you react in a way to protect other parts of your body rather than your head. If you fall you natural protect your head. Your arms go out to keep your head form hitting the ground and then your cradle your head from being hit or hitting the ground. This accounts for tons of videos and statements when people hold up their battered helmet and say my helmet saved my life.
However, a helmet will not save your life. If you want to be cool and have a helmet that might protect your head watch this video: Hövding krocktest
But without bike and ski helmets where would we mount our video cameras?
Gourley, Jim, Bicycle Times August 1, 2011, Pull Your Head Out of Your…Helmet
Other Articles on Helmets:
A helmet manufacture understands the issues(Uvex, Mouthguards)
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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