Folksam, a Swedish insurance company, conducted an independent test of 15 riding helmets available on the Swedish market and found major differences in the levels of protection from each. Take a closer look at its test here.
It’s common knowledge that wearing an ASTM/SEI certified horseback riding helmet can significantly reduce one’s risk of head injury due to a fall from the saddle (as well as other various accidents around the barn such as getting kicked in the head while handling a horse). “ASTM/SEI” refers to the American Society for Testing and Materials and the Safety Equipment Institute: the SEI performs tests on riding helmets seeking ASTM certification to ensure they are up to standards. Helmets without the ASTM/SEI certification have no proven protection for the wearer.
That said, however, safety standards are constantly changing with further research and increased knowledge of impact, and a recent independent test conducted by Swedish insurance company Folksam indicated that there may still be room for improvement in helmet testing to ensure that certified helmets are providing every possible protection to the equestrian.
Folksam selected 15 riding helmets currently available on the Swedish market for youth and adult equestrians, ranging in both popularity and price. All 15 helmets held the CE standard — the European safety standard and rough equivalent to ASTM/SEI — meaning that they had already passed the mandated tests to each the certification. These standards test for even distribution of shock to limit trauma to the skull when dropped perpendicularly from a height at a variety of angles, plus piercing tests, strap tests and visor tests.
Most impacts, however, involve an oblique impact with rotation whether from falls or kicks. Folksam tested these types of impacts through three tests along the X-, Y- and Z-axes. Computer simulations evaluated injury risk based on readings.
Key takeaways from the test:
- “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.”
5. The helmet is awarded “Best in test”. This means that the helmet complies with all legal regulations and is 30% better than the average helmet in the test and protects well.
4. The helmets are awarded “Good choice”. This means that the helmet complied with all legal regulations and performs better than the average helmets in the test and protects well.
3. Complies with legal regulations and has an average test compared to all helmets in the test.
2. A lower test score compared to other helmets in test but complies with legal regulations.
1. A lower test score compared to other helmets in the test and poor results in all tests, but complies with legal regulations.
In summary, current European standards do not test for a helmet’s capacity to reduce rotational acceleration. Helmets have certainly come a long way in preventing life-threatening injuries, but this test suggests that further research and improvement is necessary to reduce the risk of brain injuries that result in long-term consequences.