Looking back, I realize I have spent a lot of time wearing helmets, or at the very least SHOULD have spent a lot of time wearing helmets. Football, construction work, bicycling, lacrosse, rock climbing, motor cycling, horseback riding, auto racing, skiing, roller blading, and baseball are now all helmeted activities.
Other than making the paradigm shift from not wearing a helmet to wearing one, things hadn’t changed that much, until recently.
We are now seeing rapid advances in head savings technologies – Helmets.
Football helmets have been evolving over the past few years and now so are biking helmets.
Motorcycle helmets weigh approximately 4 pounds, bicycle helmets weigh less than 16 ounces and have to be able to allow cooling for the rider. A lot of the impact patterns are similar between motorcycling and bicycling. Traditionally bike helmets have had a stiff layer of foam that was designed to absorb energy in a large direct blow only.
Unfortunately, the smaller hits taken together can also cause injury. To illustrate, strap on your bicycle helmet and tap the helmet with your fingertip, you will be able to feel that because the foam doesn’t “activate” with low energy or rotary impacts.
The newest technologies add an additional layer that activates with the lower energy impacts. Football helmets have been incorporating different materials such as air chambers and soft foam and hard foam, that is, dual density to great effect. The newest bike helmets add a soft squish-able foam layer in between the outer shell and the stiff foam layer, or a compressible flexible web to address the lower energy impacts. This maintains primary protection for high energy impacts and adds low energy impact protection.
As we continue to learn more about what causes concussions and other head injuries we can improve the protective equipment and protective techniques employed to prevent those injuries.