As I wrote last week, it’s hard to know which helmet is the best helmet because very few independent testing is conducted that provides those comparisons. In the US, helmets are either ASTM approved . . . or they are not.
However, the Swedish insurance company Folksam tested 15 riding helmets for children and adults available on the Swedish market and their results were startling — only three out of the 15 helmets performed well enough to earn the company’s “best in test” or “good choice” label. The testing also showed that price was not an indicator of higher performance.
So, what’s different about the Folksam testing?
Current testing measures the energy absorption of the helmets when struck with a perpendicular impact to the helmet. Folksam believes that this does not fully reflect the scenario in an equestrian accident as in a fall from the horse or horse kick, the impact to the head will be oblique. The testing conducted by Folksam was to simulate angular acceleration, which is the dominating cause of brain injuries. The objective of this test was to evaluate helmets sold on the Swedish market. Four physical tests were conducted, shock absorption with straight perpendicular impact and three oblique impact tests. Computer simulations were made to evaluate injury risk.
In seven helmets a linear acceleration lower than 200 g were showed, which corresponds to a low risk of skull fracture. The simulations indicated that the strain in the grey matter of the brain during oblique impacts varied between helmets from 16% to 51%, where 26% corresponds to 50% risk for a concussion. The two helmets equipped with Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) performed in general better than the others. However, all helmets need to reduce rotational acceleration more effectively. A helmet that meets the current standards does not necessarily prevent concussion. In total three helmets obtained the Folksam best in test or good choice label: Back on Track EQ3 Lynx, Back on Track EQ3 and Charles Owen Ayr8. The helmet Back on Track EQ3 Lynx performed best and was 30% better than the average helmet. Both the Back on Track EQ3 Lynx and Back on Track EQ3 are fitted with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) with the intention to reduce the rotational energy.
Here are the results of the helmets that were tested:
Of course one of the challenges here is that not all the helmets shown here are available in the U.S., and that many of the popular US helmets were not tested. However, it’s encouraging to me that more independent testing is available that can help us all make more educated choices about the helmets we buy. The caveat being that an approved helmet that fits is always better than not wearing a helmet at all.