The hard facts on helmets
With two major crashes within 24 hrs of each other at the Rio Olympic games cycling events, we look at what a helmet actually does to limit injury.
A nasty crash involving a Dutch woman, who was leading her race, has resulted in three spinal fractures and a heavy concussion. The rider, Van Vleuten, had a helmet on, and still sustained this heavy concussion- so where did the helmet help?
The helmet protects against skull fractures, the outer ‘shell’ of the brain and bleeding inside the skull. The brain is suspended within this skull in a protective cerebrospinal fluid. So what can the helmet do to protect the brain?
In a cycling crash like we saw at Rio or a blow in boxing, the brain can slide forwards and backwards violently- referred to as a ‘translational’ force; or, the brain can rotate and twist- all dependent on the line of force & head movement.
A helmet aims to dissipate force and can limit translational force; but isn’t as effective against rotational movements- which interestingly, researchers believe are responsible for concussions.As such, many current researchers and helmet manufacturers are working together to develop helmets that have components which slide against each other, in an aim to control the rotational forces.
Helmets are the best option for protecting against brain injuries, Despite, this, our current helmets are the best option for protecting against brain injuries and do greatly assist, just not in all head impact forces.