Helmet Safety – Star System
Duma: There’s a lot of different ways to make a great helmet.
But the best football helmets all have one thing in common. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Duma: When we first started rating helmets in 2011, there was only one five star helmet. Now football has flipped to where all the companies are only making five star helmets.
Stefan Duma is the director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. He developed the star rating system for helmets to help minimize concussions and other serious head injuries.
Duma: In this part of our lab, we have every football and hockey helmet cut in half, so you can see the padding system and the amount of pad of each helmet. If you move from one star helmets to five star helmets, simply stated, there’s more padding. The helmets are larger, they have more padding, and more complex padding systems. A helmet has to perform at a low level, a medium, and a high level of impact for all directions. When you look at a five star helmet, you are going to see a larger offset, a little more padding, and typically combinations of padding styles. Different foams to help at different levels of impact.
For sports other than football, there are different kinds of helmets with other strategies for absorbing impacts.
Duma: If you look at motorcycle helmets or bicycle helmets, they are one time use. They are going to break, they are going to fracture, on impact, and that’s how they absorb the energy. That’s very different than most of your other sporting helmets, like football or hockey, where they are multiple impact. They have to recover within a few seconds for the next play.
According to Dr. Duma, the sport with one of the least effective helmets today is hockey.
Duma: There is more padding on their fingers and knuckles than there is in the helmet. I think the sport has evolved that way. We’re trying to change it. I would expect within the next 6 to 12 months to see a revolution in hockey, where you have bigger helmets because there is a head injury problem in hockey – concussions and even more serious head injury. We are looking forward to better helmets coming out soon.
I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.