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Virginia Tech Helmet Study - Initial Results

Virginia Tech Equestrian Helmet Study Results

The long awaited initial results of the Virginia Tech helmet study have been released, with testing scores of 40 ASTM equestrian helmets in the first testing batch.

As a primer about what the scores mean:

  1. The LOWER the score, the better the helmet performed in testing. The score refers to the number of concussions a rider might suffer if they experienced the 12 impacts used in the test. 
  2. The HIGHER the STAR rating, the better the overall testing results.

There is a lot of information to unpack in these results, and these are only the first 40 helmets to be tested. VT will be working to test all ASTM approved helmets.

Here are some initial takeaways:

  1. The study focused on concussion risk only. That means that other factors, such as crush and impacts to different surfaces such as hard edges, were not considered. This is because there are other standards already in place to assess helmet performance in those scenarios. Takeaway #1 - the more safety standards your helmet meets, plus the STAR rating, the better.
  2. The testing was done on headforms with a pendulum impactor. The headform was designed to simulate a human head to the largest degree possible, but of course that can't be 100%. Takeaway #2 - helmet fit remains absolutely critical. You can have a 5 STAR helmet with the four major certifications and it's worthless if it doesn't fit.
  3. If your helmet didn't score well, Takeaway #3 - this doesn't automatically mean your helmet isn't safe. However, it does mean that specifically for concussion prevention, it doesn't score as well.
  4. Takeaway #4 - you don't have to spend a ton of money to have a safe helmet. This is something that we're thrilled to see.

As mentioned previously, there's a lot of information in the study results that we'll dedicate several posts to, but these results should be used as a decision making factor and not as a single deciding factor when making the decision about which helmet to purchase.

Having said that, some of the most popular helmet models that we see in the competition ring, and those that are higher cost, did not perform well in the study.

Overall, the hope is that manufacturers will use these results to improve their helmets further so that we have a broader selection of 5 STAR helmets in the future.

You can find the study results here.

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