Price no guarantee of greater safety with horse riding helmets, study findings suggest

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"There is a great potential to make helmets safer," Folksam researcher Helena Stigson says.
“There is a great potential to make helmets safer,” Folksam researcher Helena Stigson says.

Tests of equestrian riding helmets by a Swedish insurance company have shown that the most expensive models on the market are not necessarily the “best” for the protection of horse riders.

Folksam tested 15 helmets on the Swedish market, all previously having been tested and approved according to the CE standard, which means that the energy absorption of the helmets has been tested with a perpendicular impact to the helmet.

“This does not fully reflect the scenario in an equestrian accident,” Folksam said.

“In a fall from the horse or horse kick, the impact to the head will be oblique. The intention was to simulate this in the tests since it is known that angular acceleration is the dominating cause of brain injuries.”

The method used in shock absorption test. The head's initial angle was 26⁰.
The method used in shock absorption test. The head’s initial angle was 26⁰.

The company performed four physical tests: Shock absorption with straight perpendicular impact and three oblique impact tests. Computer simulations were made to evaluate injury risk.

Folksam said that the current European certification test standards do not cover the helmets’ capacity to reduce the rotational energy, that is, when the head is exposed to rotation due to the impact.

“We see in our test that there is a great potential to make the helmets safer, said Folksam researcher Helena Stigson. “The two best-known helmets had so-called rotational protection (MIPS), but all riding helmets need to be better at reducing the rotation violence to avoid brain injury or more serious brain injuries.”

The company said three helmets stood out in the test, and “the price is not decisive for how well the helmet is, on the contrary, one of the most expensive helmets is among the worst.”

Stigson said that among the Swedish Riders’ Association 154,000 members, about five riders are affected by head injury per week. One in nine who suffer from a concussion will have long-term problems.

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File image © Steph Freeman

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