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Is One Helmet Really Better Than Another
 By Winniefield Park   •   31st Jul 2018   •   304 views   •   0 comments


We’ve previously looked at why wearing a helmet is a good idea when you ride and work with a horse, how to care for one and the excuses people use not to wear them.

Chances are, if you are out shopping for a helmet, you may assume that the more money you spend, the more protection you will be getting. But, according to an independent test done by a Swedish insurance company, that might not be the case.

The insurance company used fifteen different helmets for their safety test. The helmets were from a variety of price points from 500 to 6000 SEK ($56 to $680 USD). Most of the brand names are helmets only available in Europe, so unfortunately, those of us elsewhere can’t take this list shopping with us.

This is the second time Folksam Insurance ran this test. The first time was in 2014, and they claim, the quality of helmets has improved since the last test. But, there’s room for even more improvement. Using simulations of front, side, rear and rotational impacts, the testing showed that there is still a substantial risk of head injury, even with a helmet if the wearer is using one of the lower scoring helmets. The risk, the study showed, was 2 to 5 times greater than the best rated helmets.

One of the flaws of helmets and the standard crash testing is that only vertical impacts are tested, not rotational impacts. But the falls and resulting impacts that cause head injuries are more likely to be rotational in nature. Therefore, helmets aren’t being designed and tested to protect riders from this type of impact. Helmets don’t always hit the ground (or jump) or get kicked at an exact vertical angle. And that says Folksam, is an oversight in the safety testing and overall design.

The helmets were rated on a scale of one through five, with five being the best and one, the poorest. Of the fifteen helmets tested, only three passed the testing with a top score of five or five. All of these were mid-range in retail price. The most expensive helmet, at 6000 SEK, only scored a three, and one at a price point of 5900 SEK was one of three helmets to score the lowest. The brand names of the top helmets were Back on Track and Charles Owen. The Back on Track EQ3 Lynx was the only helmet to score the full five points. Helmets with something called a Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) scored better than ones that did not have that designation.

Helmets with MIPs technology may offer more protection. These can be found in Back on Track riding helmets which are priced around $250 USD and Armis polo helmets. The UK Charles Owen site does not provide information about MIPs helmets. But of course, even $250 can feel like a lot to pay if you’re on a budget. Keep in mind, that regardless of the name brand, price point or safety score, Folksam emphasised that wearing any helmet provided at least a 50% reduction in head injuries and that any helmet was better than no helmet at all.
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