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Virginia Tech helmet lab expanding to test bicycle helmets and soccer headgear

August 16, 2016

Helmet lab test
Steven Rowson (center), an assistant professor, and Stefan Duma (right), the Harry C. Wyatt Professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, have gained national headlines for their creation of a groundbreaking safety ratings system for adult football and hockey helmets.

Virginia Tech’s Helmet Ratings research lab, which has won international recognition for evidence-based ratings of football and hockey helmets, is adding bicycle helmets and soccer headgear to its testing program.

“With the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, companies are provided with a pathway to improve their product. It gives them a mechanism and the science to go above and beyond the standard and make a safer helmet,” said Virginia Tech professor Stefan Duma, who is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in injury biomechanics and traumatic brain injury. “Now that we’re adding bicycling and soccer, it’s really going from North America — football and hockey — to a global ratings system, and reaching a broader audience.”

Duma and Steven Rowson, an assistant professor who helped develop the lab, are talking about the expanded testing program and sharing early results today at a symposium in Sterling, Virginia. The symposium discussion will include:

  • Bicycle helmet performance varied dramatically in early testing — concussion risk in the worst helmet was four times greater than in the best.
  • In real-world bike accidents, the rim of the helmet is the most frequently impacted location – but current helmet certification standards don’t evaluate it. When the Virginia Tech team performed drop tests on helmet rims, some helmets allowed much more head acceleration than others.
  • The first-ever Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings for bicycle helmets and soccer headgear, and updated ratings for youth and adult football and hockey helmets, will be released later in the fall.
  • The team’s updated testing methods take rotational, as well as linear, acceleration into account when evaluating helmet performance.

About the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings

Not all helmets are created equal: two helmets that pass the same standard may offer different levels of impact protection. Since 2011, Virginia Tech researchers have been providing unbiased helmet ratings on a five-star scale, giving gives athletes, coaches, and parents the information they need to choose helmets that best reduce concussion risk.

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