Bike helmets don't prevent concussions
Last Post 06/08/2013 07:22 PM by 79 pmooney. 34 Replies.
Author Messages
CERV

Posts:151

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05/28/2013 10:08 PM
http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/ Really good article on bike helmets and the current state of the industry with respect to research on concussion and brain injury. What bike helmets are and aren't good at protecting us from.
Gonzo Cyclist

Posts:201

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05/29/2013 02:16 AM
Pretty good article for sure, I crushed one at about 30 plus when I was hit from behind, had a full blown concussion, but my head was intact
[URL=http://s424.photobucket.com/user/KennyGonzales/media/9r5edz.jpg.html][/URL]
Giro Pnuemo
pikeHillRoad

Posts:95

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05/29/2013 07:35 AM
huh. apparently mtn bike helmets are safer?

Joking aside, I find it interesting that the companies that are producing MIPS helmets are only producing mtn bike models.
jmdirt

Posts:683

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05/29/2013 09:10 AM
Thanks for sharing Cerv! If you go by the old skull/brain smash theory, you realize that helmets won't prevent concussions but once you understand the mechanics of what is actually happening you can really see that helmets won't prevent concussions. I have never expected my helmet to prevent a concussion but if they can design a helmet that can reduce my risk, I'm ready to buy.
stronz

Posts:303

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05/29/2013 09:23 AM
I read that article and found it to be a really thorough going over of the whole helmet/head trauma/brain injury issue. It really is well-done, but not that encouraging in my view about how to prevent brain injuries. The info on how torsional injuries are the most common and damaging was interesting as was the system of alllowing a portion of the external helmet to rotate with the impact while the inner layer stays fixed (is this MIPS - I dont remember). My conclusion was that its really easy to damage one's brain in a fall while riding and we need to have no delusions about that. I also think that improving one's handling skills is important in accident avoidance -- yeah there are accidents you cant avoid, but I think plenty are avoidable - particularly when riding in a group with other riders who are frequently sketchy bike handlers - chief among them being staying up at the front. I have always felt that getting on my mtn bike and riding some technical trails is very useful (and fun) in this regard. just mho
Spud

Posts:185

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05/29/2013 09:26 AM
No helmet will prevent a concussion. Not even this $750 Shoei, but they will keep you skull intact. Bicycle helmets maybe not so much, depending on the impact.

Pin0Q0

Posts:229

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05/29/2013 11:13 AM
+1 Spud. Back in March of 05, I was on aa training ride going down Hawk Mountain near Reading PA, there was salt and gravel on the road, it made me fish tale and that's the last thing I remember. Apparently I hit a ditch and flew into a tree head first at 49mph according to my team mates and speedometer. I woke in the hospital next day with three broken vertabrae 8,9,and 10. My helmet was almost cracked in half but that saved me from being a vegtable. It realy bothers me when I see people on bikes w/o one.
jacques_anquetil

Posts:202

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05/29/2013 12:21 PM
no kidding Pin0Q0. sounds like you were lucky. same thing happened to Nicole Reinhart where she clipped a pedal and went headfirst into a tree at a crit. an acquaintance was on her team and was the first to check on her. it was clear that she was not gonna make it. edit: holy! btw, that is an inspired piece of web design!
longslowdistance

Posts:637

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05/29/2013 01:29 PM
A big part of helmets not optimally preventing concussions is THE TEST, which forces manufacturers to optimize their helmets for too big hits.
Motorcycle helmet certification has the same problem: the Snell Foundation standard is designed for the helmet to stay together in a catastrophic hit, which is not optimal for protecting the brain. The Euros to their credit did some excellent research on real accidents and realized that a softer helmet liner is needed to maximize outcomes. Snell is catching on but their standards are still to biased towards huge hits that may kill you no matter what, rather than minimizing the chance of brain injury in a crash you can survive. In other words, a Snell approved sticker means the helmet is less safe than a quality helmet with a CE sticker!
Patched Tube

Posts:29

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05/29/2013 02:02 PM
My take on bike helmets has always been that they are there to protect the scalp and skull - preventing lacerations and fractures. And they do a pretty good job of that in my experiance - I've crashed a time or two and been thankfull I'd been wearing a helmet (providing me a ready made excuse to upgrade to that new model!).

But concusions are tough to deal with - in essence you have to figure out a way to deaccelerate the head and the brain therein when it really wants to come to a sudden stop. I'm sure the crush design of current bike helmets helps a little - but only a little. The forces involved are just too large for any kind of crash at speed.

Still.... all things being equal I'd much rather be wearing one than not.
-- that which cannot be proven as true must be regarded as false or not affirmed as true
Dale

Posts:469

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05/29/2013 08:50 PM
LSD, the new SNELL rating for motorcycle (Snell 2010M) more closely matches ECE in the reduction of the G spike. The older 2005 rating did not take into account the varying head mass differences between a small and an extra large size. The newer Snell rating gives a much better level of protection than the previous.

"If you tell me how you're going to crash I'll build you the perfect helmet"
Master50

Posts:226

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05/29/2013 10:07 PM
I have maintained a high level of scepticism over most of the helmet saved my life statements. They are evangelical in their character. This research enforces the limits of styrofoam in saving lives. I am glad for more scientific evidence over the rather emotional perspective of some of the helmet advocates. BTW I always wear one. An in tact skull and good hair are still good reasons for the protection.
79pmooney

Posts:1095

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05/29/2013 10:18 PM
Master, I hit the pavement head first at about 35 mph when my fork snapped at the crown/steerer with no warning as I landed a bunny hop. Wearing the original Bell Biker, I suffered a 5 day coma. Without it, I doubt I'd be any better than the patients I saw in vegetative state in the recovery ward. I certainly suffered the axial (sp) nerve damage that article spoke of, plus a blood clot on my hyperthalmus (sp) and a bruise on the base of my motor nerves, both seen by CAT scan.

I don't think saying that helmet saved my life is much of a stretch.

Ben
longslowdistance

Posts:637

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05/29/2013 10:22 PM
Posted By Mike Shea on 05/29/2013 10:07 PM
I have maintained a high level of scepticism over most of the helmet saved my life statements. They are evangelical in their character. This research enforces the limits of styrofoam in saving lives. I am glad for more scientific evidence over the rather emotional perspective of some of the helmet advocates. BTW I always wear one. An in tact skull and good hair are still good reasons for the protection.

 Think of it this way: minimal fall, all helmets give equal good outcome. Severe crash, you die. A snell approved helmet may keep the rider's skull may intact, but the rider dies from intracranial hemorrhage or aortic or other major internal injury so it doesn't matter. It's the in-between force accidents where helmets differ. Snell is moving in right direction but based on the Euro research not yet far enough. Change is hard.
GJanney

Posts:76

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05/30/2013 12:58 PM
I would never have imagined a helmet could prevent a concussion. Were others under that impression?
79pmooney

Posts:1095

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05/30/2013 02:14 PM
But, GJanney, if helmets can do better, what excuse is there to not make them?

I read the article yesterday and wrote the following letter which I will send to Easton-Bell. (Does anyone have a name for their marketing VP?

Vice President, Marketing
Bell Helmets
Easton-Bell Sports
7855 Haskell Avenue #200
Van Nuys, CA 91406

Dear Mr. Vice President,

I just read the Bicycling article (http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/) on the new bike helmet research indicating that a helmet designed to minimize rotational inertia can significantly reduce concussions. I learned about this article on the Velonation forum http://www.velonation.com/Forums/afv/topic/aff/5/aft/278.aspx

I want such a helmet. It is a very real possibility that such a helmet will extend by years the time I can spend riding. I’ve been riding nearly 50 years. 35 years ago, your Bell Biker saved my life (and increased your sales in the Boston, MA area by probably 1000%). Instead of death or the life of a vegetable, I spent 5 days in a coma and recovered completely save memories and my undergraduate engineering education. Since then I have ridden perhaps 150,000 miles. I have crashed a number of. A car door, a car running a red light, dogs, railroad tracks in the rain, snow and ice, etc. Many of those crashes were minor. Several were not. There have been a few concussions in there. None diagnosed. Most not even looked for when I’ve been hospitalized for other injuries. But I have known I was concussed. And I have learned that it takes far less to concuss me now than it did years ago.

I am not writing this because I find any fault with Easton-Bell or its current line of bicycle helmets. I am writing this because I want your company to set the same high standard Bell did 38 years ago, making the helmet that saved my life. I want to go out soon and buy your helmet with the technology discussed in the Bicycling article to better the chances that I will have less additional concussive damage to this brain the next time I go down. It is a given I will. Dogs, wet leaves, potholes, gravel, and automobiles are not going to go away. As long as I can mount the bike, I will not stop riding.

The importance of bicycle riding in my life I believe is pretty well summed up by this note I carry in my wallet:

“Emergency Responders

If I should die as a result of this bicycle accident, however traumatic it may have been, I want you to know that I died doing what I love and that I died at peace. I have lived a good life. I would like to have lived longer, but I also knew for years that with the miles I ride every year, the odds were that my life would end on a ride. Those rides have been my love and spiritual focus for many years. This happened to be the ride I did not come home from. It is not a tragedy.

Please copy this and pass it on to all involved.

Thank you,

Ben Jeffries”

I am posting this letter on the Velonation forum thread “Bike helmets don't prevent concussions” (the web address above). I am a respected poster there having been a participant in that forum 10 years. (The forum members recently moved from the Velonews forum, so a search will indicate I have been at Velonation only a few weeks. The same is true of 90% of the other forum members.) On both forums, my user name is 79pmooney and has been the entire time.)

Your company is in a position where it could save a lot of riders from the cumulative damage of concussions, both the concussions saved by your helmets and the concussions saved by your competitor’s helmets; competitors who will have to step up because you did. You changed the path of bicycling in 1975. I want to see you do it again. And I want to be wearing that helmet and talking about it. People see me. I ride year ‘round in Portland. 6-7000 miles every year. I am known to the racing crowd. I hang out at the Alpenrose Velodrome 2 miles from my house and am known as an ex-racer who will not pin a number on or go on group rides because the cost of touching wheels is too high (a place where this new helmet could help me a lot). I am known to (and respected by) the young hipster fix-gear crowd as the guy who has been riding fix-gears longer than they have been alive. I am known as a year-‘round commuter, seen and known by many, both riders and non-riders. I am known as the guy who walks into bike shops and asks them to carry (for example) the Ortleib panniers in yellow 14 years because someone told me that a bikeshop in Seattle convinced Ortlieb to do a run of yellow for grey, rainy Seattle. Yellow panniers are now all over Portland. I am known to the Bicycle Transit Alliance of Portland and the law firm of Swanson, Thomas, Coon and Newton, a staunch advocate and defender of cycling.

I want my 10th consecutive Bell helmet to incorporate the “MIPS (Multi-directional Impact ­Protection System)” or equivalent technology. I’ll buy your first one. And I will talk it up. A lot.

Ben Jeffries
vtguy

Posts:235

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05/30/2013 02:22 PM
Splendid letter, Ben. Thanks so much for sharing it.
jacques_anquetil

Posts:202

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05/30/2013 03:00 PM
where's Fuzzball when you need her?!
C2K_Rider

Posts:168

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05/30/2013 03:18 PM
The crash I had recently was one bike helmets are actually designed for - straight drop from 6 feet. the dog that hit my front wheel caused me to fall almost straight down to the left. My hands did not even leave the bars, it was so quick. My shoulder caught most of the impact but I got a good smack on the head as well. I was not "knocked out" but was certainly dazed for a bit. My head had no injuries at all. Thanks to the helmet. My collarbone is permanently dislocated.
Pin0Q0

Posts:229

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05/31/2013 08:25 AM
Nice Ben. Real nice.
Master50

Posts:226

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05/31/2013 09:56 AM
Posted By Frederick Jones on 05/29/2013 10:22 PM
Posted By Mike Shea on 05/29/2013 10:07 PM
I have maintained a high level of scepticism over most of the helmet saved my life statements. They are evangelical in their character. This research enforces the limits of styrofoam in saving lives. I am glad for more scientific evidence over the rather emotional perspective of some of the helmet advocates. BTW I always wear one. An in tact skull and good hair are still good reasons for the protection.

 Think of it this way: minimal fall, all helmets give equal good outcome. Severe crash, you die. A snell approved helmet may keep the rider's skull may intact, but the rider dies from intracranial hemorrhage or aortic or other major internal injury so it doesn't matter. It's the in-between force accidents where helmets differ. Snell is moving in right direction but based on the Euro research not yet far enough. Change is hard.


Keith Richards

Posts:727

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05/31/2013 10:14 AM
I personally think the federal standards are fine.

If a company wants to sell me on the safety of their product over and above federal standards, they are more than welcome. But to say that just because there is better safety technology available that it should be mandated into law...I just don't think that is needed.
----- It is his word versus ours. We like our word. We like where we stand and we like our credibility."--Lance Armstrong.
GJanney

Posts:76

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05/31/2013 11:10 AM
Ben, I wasn't suggesting that the companies shouldn't do better. What I simply meant is that the force of a bike crash - especially when you hit your head on the ground or some other object - isn't going to be stopped by a helmet. As someone pointed out, even motorcycle helmets don't prevent concussions and those are massively heavy duty compared to bike helmets. My comment was more of an observation of simple physics and expectations. Wasn't trying to stir anything up.
longslowdistance

Posts:637

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05/31/2013 12:19 PM
GJ, that's just not correct. Helmets don't prevent all concussions. They do prevent some.
Oldfart

Posts:461

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05/31/2013 12:34 PM
GJ: There is an ongoing debate in mountain biking, park and dh in particular about which is safer, mountain bike specific full face or motocross full face. It is assumed that a motor sport helmet will offer better protection but they are designed for much higher speed accidents where a far more robust helmet is needed to protect the wearer. But at slower speeds that moto helmet is likely more robust that you need or want. You want the helmet to absorb as much energy of the impact as it can so that your skull and brain don't have to. I gather from this article that protecting the skull is easier than protecting the brain from concussion. There is still a pretty sudden stop and the brain will hit the inside of the skull and suffer torsional strains too. I have heard it said that the technology exists to construct a helmet that would protect the brain from concussion quite well but it would be so large as to be unusable. Thing is without a helmet, you may suffer a skull fracture and concussion with a helmet just a concussion. I don't think anyone here is suggesting no helmet is a good option but I can see some people interpreting the fact that helmets do little to mitigate concussions as meaning there is no point wearing one.
79pmooney

Posts:1095

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05/31/2013 01:37 PM
Keith, I wasn't talking about the law. I was talking about what I want helmet manufacturers to do. They do not have to do it on all models. Consumers can have their choice, just as they have the choice to wear or not wear a helmet at all. I want the option of buying one of these new technology helmets because, given my many hard impacts, those helmets could and probably would make a real difference in my quality of life.

Edit:  There is precedent here.  Bell's first helmet was way before any CPSC regulation.  THey made it because it was the right thing to do and they could make a some money selling them.  With the new technology, they have the same opportunity.

Ben
nightfend

Posts:48

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06/04/2013 11:52 AM
That religion analogy is spot on when it comes to helmets. People want to believe they are more protective than they are or else they will have to face the fact that cycling is dangerous and crashing at speed could kill them. Better to believe in the magic all protecting helmet. So many people (including myself) have had bad crashes where the helmets were destroyed. But to be honest, there is no way to really say whether a 250 gram piece of foam did much more than protect the head from lacerations.
Dale

Posts:469

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06/04/2013 01:38 PM
This was kind of cool to watch--

http://www.bikemag.com/videos/video-nope-not-all-helmets-are-equal/
longslowdistance

Posts:637

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06/04/2013 02:54 PM
I am coming to the realization that this topic is just too complex for some people to understand.
Pin0Q0

Posts:229

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06/05/2013 02:03 PM
So many people (including myself) have had bad crashes where the helmets were destroyed. But to be honest, there is no way to really say whether a 250 gram piece of foam did much more than protect the head from lacerations.

100% disagree respectfully. I for one have no doubt I am walking today because of that 250g foam on my head during my accident. If you had seen my helmet and pictured my head instead of the helmet we wouldn't be having this discussion.

k

Keith Richards

Posts:727

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06/05/2013 02:16 PM
I think people need to be honest about what a helmet is going to do for you. All you have to do is look at a helmet, which is 250g of styrofoam, to realize that they are designs to save you from catastrophic head injuries under MOST circumstances. Not all.

Having also shattered a helmet (or three) in my day, I can attest to the fact that they do help. But people need to be easy with their expectations.
----- It is his word versus ours. We like our word. We like where we stand and we like our credibility."--Lance Armstrong.
Master50

Posts:226

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06/05/2013 09:38 PM
Posted By Kameron Kameron on 06/05/2013 02:03 PM

100% disagree respectfully. I for one have no doubt I am walking today because of that 250g foam on my head during my accident. If you had seen my helmet and pictured my head instead of the helmet we wouldn't be having this discussion.

k



The forces can all be recreated and modelled. the Energy levels can be calculated and all the other physical properties of your crash. They can analyze all the data points but none of it can prove the helmet saved your life You have made a faith based Analysis based on your emotional reaction to the visual and emotional cues. You are alive and your helmet was destroyed so it certainly is provable the helmet absorbed a lot of energy but you only have an opinion on what that represents in the scale of survival? It is also completely possible the helmet was in fact the tipping point on survival but that too is probably impossible to prove. The other minor point is some people die and other live under what appears to be the same conditions. What might that prove? It is this emotional faith in that Styrofoam, which makes this debate Impossible to treat as an engineering problem. The basic safety design of a bike helmet is a 2 KG head form dropped from 6 feet. That is about the same energy level of tripping on the sidewalk except we often sit higher than that. The energy of that simple fall is still pretty high but it certainly is not designed to provide significant protection at much higher energies. ( note for the non physicists. At 60 kph the drop speed is the same if you were track standing. At 60 if your head stops suddenly you are dead. So there better be a lot of deceleration before you hit anything immovable with your head. At 60kph the vertical fall is the design parameters of your helmet but the forward momentum is only being absorbed by your head skipping along the road surface while your skin slows you down. That is what a bike helmet is designed for. Protect your skull from a 6 foot fall and protect your scalp from the road abrasions until you stop. Seems like a good reason to wear a helmet, so I do, and I am really glad your helmut might have saved your life. For you there is no debate but the curiosity in me wants more understanding of these dynamics.
79pmooney

Posts:1095

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06/06/2013 01:07 AM
Master 50, I did an undocumented impact with mine today. I lost it going 25 when my rear tire blew. I may have touched the curb. Went down very hard. Busted collarbone, major impact with my hip though it passed the X-rays. Real contact with my helmet, both contact I remember clearly and quite visible looking at it.

Not making a point here. Just that it appeared my helmet did its job rather nicely. No evidence of any concussion. I was fully with it the whole time except that I cannot account for all my abrasions but I think that is just because it happened so fast. Now, there was no evidence of skidding on my helmet, just impact, so it appears it did exactly what it was designed to do.

Irony, I dropped that letter to Bell in the mailbox at the start of today's ride.

The doc started to suggest I may want to reduce my riding. I handed him my letter to Emergency Responders. He got how important riding is to me and thanked me for showing it to him.

Ben
Master50

Posts:226

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06/06/2013 10:11 AM
Posted By 79 pmooney on 06/06/2013 01:07 AM
Master 50, I did an undocumented impact with mine today. I lost it going 25 when my rear tire blew. I may have touched the curb. Went down very hard. Busted collarbone, major impact with my hip though it passed the X-rays. Real contact with my helmet, both contact I remember clearly and quite visible looking at it.

Not making a point here. Just that it appeared my helmet did its job rather nicely. No evidence of any concussion. I was fully with it the whole time except that I cannot account for all my abrasions but I think that is just because it happened so fast. Now, there was no evidence of skidding on my helmet, just impact, so it appears it did exactly what it was designed to do.

Irony, I dropped that letter to Bell in the mailbox at the start of today's ride.

The doc started to suggest I may want to reduce my riding. I handed him my letter to Emergency Responders. He got how important riding is to me and thanked me for showing it to him.

Ben


Glad it turned out without a head injury. I broke my collar bone on February 10th and I cracked my Giro. Got a crash replacement. I am pretty sure the helmet prevented a scalp bruise but I did wonder if my head would have hit the road without the helmet? IE the hit was pretty light. I basically landed on my shoulder blade but the collar bone was where the forces overcame the tensile strength of the bone. I guess I should be very grateful it wasn't the scapula as that takes much longer to heal. At the time I did not know I cracked the helmet as it was at the tail and you had to pull the helmet apart to reveal the break. definitely had nothing to do with my survival but the fact that I didn't even get a bump only indicates it was a minor hit.
79pmooney

Posts:1095

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06/08/2013 07:22 PM
I got to thinking more about my crash, helmet and damage to my other ear which was nearly sheared off by the strap. Obvious conclusion: I should have had the strap tighter. My glasses also did a major number on my nose and cheekbone. I came to the same conclusion. Then I started think about no concussion and that recent research. I may well have achieved that outcome by having the loose strap, allowing my helmet to slide rather than accelerate my head. If that is the case, then I made the right move. One concussion saved is seriously big for this often impacted noggin.

I might write Bell and suggest I want the new helmet for vanity reasons!

Ben


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