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View Full Version : How important is it? Helmets



Galloping Granny
Jun. 15, 2011, 10:13 PM
My helmet took a hit last night (and yes, my head was in it). It looks perfectly fine other than a small scrape on the shell. I know I am supposed to toss it out and buy a new one, but I'm finding it really hard to toss what seems to be a perfectly good helmet and spend the big bucks on a new one. I will do what I am supposed to, but could someone point me to the research that explains why it is necessary? I get the general idea, but I'd like to know the science behind.

I'd also like to know the research behind the reccomendation to replace a helmet after it is five years old. My father took Styrofoam from a chemical experiment to an industry, so I grew up surrounded by it and it never appeared to degrade over time. I'm my father's daughter - I want to know the details of the why's.

Melissa.Van Doren
Jun. 15, 2011, 10:22 PM
Helmets protect by taking the impact that would've rattled your brain. Once they're whacked, the inner lining compresses in the impact zone and leaves that spot less resilient. A little impact won't damage your helmet much, but are you willing to accept a little damage to your brain if you just happen to whack that same spot again? Not me.

Most of the more expensive helmets are covered under a replacement policy that helps defray the cost. Take it, or send it, back to the tack shop you bought it from, with a short note describing the damage incident. Within a year, replacement cost may be as little as 60% off wholesale... 18 months, less off, but still better than paying full price... some even go to two years out from date of purchase. Worth it, to have a totally functional hat.

As for how the foam degrades, I'm no chemist, but everything degrades eventually. Helmets are exposed to a lot of fluctuating temperatures, which probably hastens the process somewhat.

alto
Jun. 15, 2011, 10:49 PM
I'd also like to know the research behind the reccomendation to replace a helmet after it is five years old.

yes there have been some lively discussions on this over the years :D I'm fine with using an older helmet that's been stored properly & used very little/not at all: if the helmet is used daily & subjected to hot/cold, dry/wet, all those little nudges & rolls, then I thnk that 5 years is plenty long to expect optimum function & it's time to get that new helmet.

I've seen what happens with well loved styrofoam boxes that get used as ice bins/baths, freezer storage bins etc in a chemistry/biochemstry lab & after a couple years, they aint so pretty anymore (course that is a much tougher environment than most helmets inhabit).

Most helmet manufacturers offer replacement policies, I believe Tipperary & Troxel are 1 year, with CO & GPA having rather longer policies (but value drops pretty dramatically after 2 years).

mjhco
Jun. 15, 2011, 10:58 PM
Ok. So your brain is not worth the $100 to get a new helmet.

Fine. Have at it.

Give and Take
Jun. 15, 2011, 11:04 PM
Also the safety standards have improved over time. So while your styrofoam may still look intact, depending on how old your helmet is, it may have less protection (and testing behind it) than the new ones.

Galloping Granny
Jun. 15, 2011, 11:21 PM
mjhco, did I not say that I am buying a new helmet? Why are you feeling the need to be nasty? I am an instructor and I want to be have plenty of ammnuition to convince my students to follow the guidelines. Sorry you're having a bad day.

naturalequus
Jun. 16, 2011, 01:50 AM
The OP didn't say she was looking for anecdotes, or for people to advise her to buy a new helmet. She's already doing that, as noted in her original post. She's looking for the evidence to back up the advice that one should toss out an old helmet after a fall or after 5 years. I'm another who likes to know the why's (etc) behind something; I don't like just taking something at face value. I think it is a great question and would also be interested to know if anyone has any pertinent links to some such studies???

GreyStreet
Jun. 16, 2011, 08:01 AM
The ASTM is a great place to start.
http://www.astm.org/index.shtml

They have a wealth of journal articles available if you use the search function.

Galloping Granny
Jun. 16, 2011, 08:13 AM
Thank you, Grey Street! Yes, that is what I'm looking for. I know that when people understand the detailed "whys" they are more compelled to comply than when they are just told they should do something.

mustangtrailrider
Jun. 16, 2011, 10:49 AM
Ane people get frustrated with me when I ask why.....I just want to understand so I can remember and do things properly!

Yes, there are articles that can better describe the WHYS of replacing helmets. Helmets are designed to absorb impact. That area actually weakens and decreases the effectiveness of the helmet if it is used again and has another impact.

Good Luck....I always wear one....cracked on and was upset I had to buy a new one, but I had a major concussion and was not dead! Yes, I will wear one always now...and replace it if I fall and hit my head!

Rhiannonjk
Jun. 16, 2011, 03:01 PM
I have always been interested to hear a story of somebody that has had an injury attributed to an old or non-replaced helmet (either one over 5 years old, or one that had been worn in a previous fall). I've heard plenty of stories about people without helmets, but never one about a person that should have replaced a helmet, but didn't.

Does anybody have one of those stories about an old helmet? I replace mine, anyhow, because after 3 years I honestly NEED to replace it no matter what. But I'm just curious to hear of a story that proves the need.

netg
Jun. 16, 2011, 05:01 PM
Anecdotes regarding too-old helmets would be interesting to hear.


GG - it comes down to the material properties and elasticity of the internal materials. The shock leaves it permanently compressed and therefore unable to compress to absorb additional shocks.

I am guessing that the 5 year recommendation is also related to the fatigue of the material - in use, and through the temperature cycles it will tend to compress at all points which contact the plastic of the helmet.

(I don't know what the links in the thread contain - don't have a chance to follow them right now. As someone interested in material properties, I think this is a great discussion! Yes, I'm a nerd.)

joiedevie99
Jun. 16, 2011, 05:58 PM
I have always been interested to hear a story of somebody that has had an injury attributed to an old or non-replaced helmet (either one over 5 years old, or one that had been worn in a previous fall). I've heard plenty of stories about people without helmets, but never one about a person that should have replaced a helmet, but didn't.

Does anybody have one of those stories about an old helmet? I replace mine, anyhow, because after 3 years I honestly NEED to replace it no matter what. But I'm just curious to hear of a story that proves the need.

I doubt these are common because a helmet can look fine from the outside- while actually being fairly damaged on the inside. When you fall (in the good looking but damaged helmet), you have no way of knowing 1: that the helmet wasn't as protective as it should have been and 2: that your injuries are more severe than they needed to be as a result.

For an anecdote like this to exist, someone would have to know their helmet was damaged (hard) and then ride in it again, and fall again. Or, they would have to fall in it (the second time) and send it out for testing (which might reveal more than one impact point).

Galloping Granny
Jun. 16, 2011, 07:29 PM
I tried the ASTM website and could find very little information. If anyone out there has links to other research on riding helmets I'd be very interested.

TIA!

Ajierene
Jun. 16, 2011, 08:34 PM
I have always been interested to hear a story of somebody that has had an injury attributed to an old or non-replaced helmet (either one over 5 years old, or one that had been worn in a previous fall). I've heard plenty of stories about people without helmets, but never one about a person that should have replaced a helmet, but didn't.

Does anybody have one of those stories about an old helmet? I replace mine, anyhow, because after 3 years I honestly NEED to replace it no matter what. But I'm just curious to hear of a story that proves the need.

In November I fell off the horse I was riding, landing flat on my back and bouncing my head against rather hard ground, somewhat frozen ground. I knew I should replace it, but I never pass the tack store in my daily routine and kept pushing it off. In January I fell in almost the exact same way, except this time when my head bounced, a piece of the styrofoam back came off (wearing a troxel sport helmet that costs about $30) and my head hurt for the first time ever after falling off. The second fall was in a sand indoor arena. The second fall was the only time I have ever had a headache after a fall off a horse and I fallen plenty of times!

I went out and bought two helmets so that the next fall, I can replace the helmet immediately.

alto
Jun. 17, 2011, 12:40 AM
Well this site (http://www.emsaonline.net/helmet_safety.html) has loads of info if you're willing to sift through the archives ... but it's also the sort of site that I assume everyone is aware of ... but included the link anyway ;)

Tobias
Jun. 17, 2011, 12:55 AM
I too would like to know, This is interesting!

My family was just cleaning our our storage and I threw out my Troxel. I loved that helmet, but it was over 5 years old, and the shell was totally warped, I think the So. Cal sun did it?

Everyone in my family said to keep it, it's never been in a fall, but I don't trust it with a warped shell. I know the styrofoam does the protecting, but If the shell is warped from the heat, I would think the styrofoam may be damaged too? They also looked at me funny because I said it expired. They don't get it, but I'm not risking my head.

I have another helmet anyways, and I'm not even riding now.

LarkspurCO
Jun. 17, 2011, 12:58 AM
Here's a whole newsletter from EMSA on the topic:

http://www.emsaonline.net/Archives/EMSA_NewsSummer2010_9-27-10.pdf

Rhiannonjk
Jun. 17, 2011, 09:16 AM
In November I fell off the horse I was riding, landing flat on my back and bouncing my head against rather hard ground, somewhat frozen ground. I knew I should replace it, but I never pass the tack store in my daily routine and kept pushing it off. In January I fell in almost the exact same way, except this time when my head bounced, a piece of the styrofoam back came off (wearing a troxel sport helmet that costs about $30) and my head hurt for the first time ever after falling off. The second fall was in a sand indoor arena. The second fall was the only time I have ever had a headache after a fall off a horse and I fallen plenty of times!

I went out and bought two helmets so that the next fall, I can replace the helmet immediately.

So... replace your helmet, or you might get a headache. Great! That is the first time I have seen any story about not-replacing a helmet, but it doesn't exactly... um... instill fear into the hearts of the stingy.

(again, I totally replace mine, but I'm curious in this regard if others have stories)

AllWeatherGal
Jun. 17, 2011, 09:55 AM
Interesting ... I fell earlier this week. The initial impact was cushioned by the right seat cushion, but there is a little sand scuff on the helmet (rolling fall). The helmet is about 2 months old. I got a headache, but it was from neck strain, not impact.

I wonder about replacing the helmet, as well. I don't have to make any purchases right now because I bought two at the same time.

Ajierene
Jun. 17, 2011, 11:39 AM
So... replace your helmet, or you might get a headache. Great! That is the first time I have seen any story about not-replacing a helmet, but it doesn't exactly... um... instill fear into the hearts of the stingy.

(again, I totally replace mine, but I'm curious in this regard if others have stories)

Yeah, well, neither fall was a hard fall. To expand: The first one, I was walking, the horse spooked jumped left, I pulled right but kept going left so she went right and I went left.

The reason for the second fall is a bit of a mystery, even to my trainer, but I think I did not put enough weight in the right stirrup as we came ove the jump. Left was the direction we were supposed to go after the jump, so I looked left over the jump and as she landed, I found myself falling off the left side and twisting as I fell.

In both falls, I hit my back, then my head on the ground. The ground was softer in the second fall than the first.

So, yeah, I can imagine if I were launched or hit a solid object on the second fall, the results would have been worse. It really freaked me out and I bought two helmets when I went to the store so that the whole 'oh, but the store is SO far away, I'll just replace my helmet next week," excuse is no longer valid.

alto
Jun. 17, 2011, 12:21 PM
oh, but the store is SO far away, I'll just replace my helmet next week

When it's at least a 4 hour trip to/from the tack shop, this excuse is alot easier to comprehend - & if you're in a rural delivery area, that Overnight Express Delivery is NOT 1-2 days :lol: (try 5-7 :confused:)

Of course, the described tack shop did not have the helmet that almost fit in the size that was most likely to fit & we also now have the backup helmet on hand.

Sunsets
Jun. 17, 2011, 01:40 PM
I’ve had a similar issue with my hockey helmet. The “major hit” recommendations are the same – cracked shell? Replace it. The guidelines on how much a “light abuse” helmet can take, however, are much less clear. Helmets are “certified” for 5 years, and USAHockey recommends replacing them every 2 years.

One data point: I replaced my 7 year old hockey helmet only after I took a nasty fall in a game. My legs got swept out from under me, and I went splat on my back and smacked the back of my head. It hurt. A lot. I ordered a new helmet the next day, and in my next game wearing it I took a head-to-head hit (the opposing team player had issues with steering) and didn’t notice a thing. So I think it was definitely a smart move to replace mine. Probably should have replaced it way earlier.

One more bit of data – during the game in which I smacked my head, the ref told me he witnessed a guy take a similar fall earlier in the week. His helmet was really old. Guy ended up being carted off the ice with seizures.

So I think the two year rule is probably pretty reasonable, for equestrian helmets as well.

Galloping Granny
Jun. 17, 2011, 02:36 PM
Still interested in materials information and statistics. But since inquiring minds want to know, I am going to dissect my old helmet instead of just tossing it. It will make me feel better to toss out pieces of a helmet than a whole normal looking helmet! LOL It should be interesting, but if I don't see dents it won't make me do anything different than I would anyway. If I find some dents, I'll just be that much more convinced, and I'll have a demo helmet to show my students. Just hate to waste anything!

Blkarab
Jun. 17, 2011, 03:48 PM
Galloping Granny--I think that is a fabulous idea! I may do the same with the old Troxel that I just replaced.

I try to replace my helmet every couple of years. Since I commute, and don't like keeping my helmet in the barn (too many spiders, ick)...I worry that the temperature changes from season to season damage the inside of my helmet. I look for any signs of distortion on the outside of the helmet. My latest helmet, I noticed some bumps on the top just under the shell...so, I went ahead and replaced mine with a new Ovation. First thing I noticed about the new helmet, was that it comes down the back of my head further. I really like that...I feel more protected and the helmet just fits better overall.

Galloping Granny
Jun. 17, 2011, 08:46 PM
OK, helmet dismantled and here's the report:

I was able to pry off the outer shells ( Lower and upper) and get a good look at the styrofoam underneath. I was able to see two very slight dents. I knew where I hit, so I knew where to look or I might have missed them. One was on the outside of the styrofoam on the rear lower edge, and the other was inside in the rear on the same side where the strap holding the part that cradles your head down low pressed into the inside of the styrofoam. It was very hard to see these dents, and they were very shallow. It was a hard hit - I was there!

The other interesting thing I found was that there was a manufacturing date inside - 2001! Now, I know that I bought the helmet about 6 years ago. That would be 2005. So, did I buy a helmet that had been hanging around in a warehouse and then a store for four years? How did this affect it? Never thought about that.

Bottom line is that I will not show the helmet to my students. The damage was so slight that it would not convince them. And my husband, who has no problem with the fact that I ordered a new helmet, is still wondering how much of the reccomendations are to cover the manufactrers rears in case of a law suit. That is why I would like to see more details on the tests that are done on the helmets, and on the ones they do after they have been damaged. I will continue to follow the reccomendations, but I won't quit looking for more information. I want to be fully informed.

I do think that what I saw makes it clear to me that the helmet coming down low on the back of the head is a very good idea.

RAyers
Jun. 17, 2011, 10:41 PM
Your helmet worked exactly as designed. Safety equipment is designed such that damage energy is dissipated over TRILLIONS of molecular and atomic bonds. Many times one will not see the damage without at least an optical microscope and sometime you need an electron microscope. Whether it is a helmet or bumper or frame of a car this is how they are designed. We literally design from ATOM up nowadays.

The date is required by ASTM standards. This is the date of manufacture but unlike fruit, if the helmet is stored appropriately, it will not go bad.

The foam in helmets and other protective equipment goes bad due to UV radiation, chemical reactions with sweat and chemicals in the hair and deformation damage that occurs when you put on and take off the helmet or set it down.

We used to have a regular poster here, Dru Malvese (sp?) who is a member of ASTM helmet standards committee. I am a member of ASM which sets the materials standards for ASTM.

In my experience I return my crashed helmet to the place I bought it and they give me a discount on a new helmet (usually 50% off).

Reed

Galloping Granny
Jun. 17, 2011, 11:15 PM
Thank you, RAyers! You are the kind of person I wanted to get information from! I appreciate your explanation of how the energy is dissipated and what causes damage to the materials. I feel much more informed now and understand the whys of replacing an older helmet.

I have to order my helmets online - no tack shop within less than four hours away. Not sure how that works on returning a damaged helmet.

Thanks again!

alto
Jun. 18, 2011, 02:06 AM
Did you search & read any of the articles on the previously linked American Medical Equestrian Association site?


eg, Equestrian Headgear Standards (http://www.emsaonline.net/Archives/sep00nws.htm)


In general, all of the standards assess a helmet's ability to provide adequate protection to the wearer through a series of performance tests. Tests are designed to replicate the stresses that each helmet system may undergo in the event of a head impact. A helmet is designed to absorb impact energy through deformation or destruction of itself, rather than the head within. The nature of a helmet’s use will determine both the style of tests, as well as their severity. For example, a football helmet will typically undergo regular pounding of low severity impacts, while an equestrian helmet is intended to withstand only a single high severity impact. Therefore, football and equestrian helmet standards will define different tests and impact level, although the style of testing will be similar for both. All of the standards reviewed for equestrian headgear cover the two major components of a helmet standard: impact and retention. Impact tests measure the ability of a helmet to reduce the amount of acceleration experienced by the brain to a non-threatening level. The severity of the test that delivers this impact in a laboratory is based on energy levels that would reasonably be experienced during use of the helmet. A helmet is secured on a humanoid shaped headform, which is typically made form metal or plastic that has shock sensing instrumentation imbedded at its center. This shock sensor, or accelerometer, measures the acceleration imparted to the headform through the helmet, expressed in multiples of gravitational acceleration (G’s). The helmeted headform is oriented to target a specific test site, and then raised to a predetermined height and released onto a solid steel anvil. The anvil selected is designed to reflect the different shapes that a helmet might contact. The better the helmet, the less acceleration that the headform experiences. In this manner, a test standard will define an acceptable level of acceleration, based on predicted human tolerance. Retention tests measure the ability of a helmet to stay on the wearer’s head, and remain in the proper position to provide protection. Obviously, If a helmet does not stay positioned properly during normal use, and during the violence of an incident, it cannot protect the head during primary and maybe secondary hits.

Typically, the helmet is secured in the usual manner onto a humanoid headform, and an apparatus Is to stress the retention system. The fasteners are stressed, as well as the buckle, stitching and webbing. Typically, the retention system is required to remain intact, and limits are put on the amount of stretch allowed in the system during the test. Additional test requirements are specified for penetration resistance, peak (visor) deflection and lateral deformation. However, these are secondary In importance to the impact and retention tests.

Galloping Granny
Jun. 18, 2011, 06:35 AM
Thanks, alto. Yes, I did go to that site but I had trouble navigating it and didn't find that particular article. Good information.

alto
Jun. 18, 2011, 11:44 AM
:)
Initially I kept missing the site search engine - that is from an older news article & just happened to be the first hit when I used "helmet testing" as a search parametre.

EMSA has done a really outstanding site :yes: :yes: :yes:

Gloria
Jun. 18, 2011, 12:27 PM
OK, helmet dismantled and here's the report:

I was able to pry off the outer shells ( Lower and upper) and get a good look at the styrofoam underneath. I was able to see two very slight dents. I knew where I hit, so I knew where to look or I might have missed them. One was on the outside of the styrofoam on the rear lower edge, and the other was inside in the rear on the same side where the strap holding the part that cradles your head down low pressed into the inside of the styrofoam. It was very hard to see these dents, and they were very shallow. It was a hard hit - I was there!

The other interesting thing I found was that there was a manufacturing date inside - 2001! Now, I know that I bought the helmet about 6 years ago. That would be 2005. So, did I buy a helmet that had been hanging around in a warehouse and then a store for four years? How did this affect it? Never thought about that.

Bottom line is that I will not show the helmet to my students. The damage was so slight that it would not convince them. And my husband, who has no problem with the fact that I ordered a new helmet, is still wondering how much of the reccomendations are to cover the manufactrers rears in case of a law suit. That is why I would like to see more details on the tests that are done on the helmets, and on the ones they do after they have been damaged. I will continue to follow the reccomendations, but I won't quit looking for more information. I want to be fully informed.

I do think that what I saw makes it clear to me that the helmet coming down low on the back of the head is a very good idea.

GG,

Could you saw open the styrfoam across where the dent is and again at the opposite site to the dent, and measure whether there is a difference between these two sites? I think that is the only way to see whether there is a deteriation from the impact. In fact, the better experiment is probably to compare between an intact helmet versus one that has seen the impact.

Galloping Granny
Jun. 18, 2011, 11:30 PM
If I understand what you are saying Gloria, the outside dents and the inside dents were not opposite each other. The outside dent was were the helmet contacted the ground, and the inside dent was where the rear harness assembly pressed into the styrofoam. But I feel I have a much better understanding now of how the shock is dissipated and how the changes in the material could be invisible to the naked eye. I am very comfortable in following the guidelines regarding replacing helmets.

BTW, can't wait to get my new helmet. Right now I'm riding in my show helmet, but I ordered a new one that is pretty cute. I'll not only be safe, but look cool as well! You can do both!

Kwill
Jun. 19, 2011, 12:40 PM
I took a fall last year in my charles owen helmet pro II, and I am pretty sure I didn't hit my head (landed on my back) but it was a bad fall so I decided to replace it just in case.

Smart Pak honored the Charles Owen email for 70% off the replacement price (I think, now I can't remember the exact percentage, it was a lot).

I figured, why not replace it. I would always wonder. I agree though, I had some doubts about replacing it because it seemed completely undamaged.

Then I had the vest debate with myself. Did not end up getting a vest. I don't jump so it seemed less important for flat work. The only vest that seemed to be really effective was the air bag model, and I thought that was a bit of overkill.

HiyoSilver
Jun. 20, 2011, 04:22 PM
Its like this- most of the damage done to helmets is unseen. Like the motor mounts in my old Smart car. We got rear-ended once in that car, and the motor mounts are designed to let the engine drop below the passengers in a severe rear end collision. But the motor didn't let go, and the Mercedes dealership refused to replace them, even though I showed them the article on the engineering of them. They said " We don't see any visible damage" . Three months later we put the car into reverse and

THE MOTOR FELL OUT OF THE CAR.

The end result was that Mercedes replaced our car with a new one. No kidding.

In your helmet, you will not see the ultraviolet and infrared radiation damage that occurs when the helmet is exposed to sun or extreme heat like in a closed car or trailer tack compartment. You won't see the micro cracks in the plastic shell that resulted from being frozen. You won't see the microscopic dissolution of the expanded foam liner that results from exposure to volatile chemicals found in sweat, hair spray, bug spray, ammonia etc. Your helmet will withstand a lot of these small repeated insults for quite a few years- so much so that the manufacturer will warrant it for 5 years or so. After that, I won't bet my life on it. And without a helmet I would certainly have been dead once or twice already- had a good Troxel crack right in half in one fall- and walked away without a headache.

At $30 for a schooling helmet, replacing every 5 years or so doesn't sound like a big expense.