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


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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



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


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.


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