Helmet safety meeting a big success

January 23, 2011

Delegates at a helmetsafety symposium in Florida left the event pledging to work together across the disciplines to improve rider safety.

USEF CEO John Long, left, and US team doctor Craig Ferrell.
The Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium, on held January 8 in Wellington, was deemed a huge success by participants, which included representatives from USEF, USDF, USEA, USHJA, Racing, Polo, Helmet Manufacturers, Helmet Testing Authorities, Leading Equestrians and Medical Experts.

Kemi O'Donnell, mother of Christen O'Donnell, kicked off the presentations by emotionally discussing her daughter's death at the age of 12 from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

USEF President David O Connor spoke next and vowed that USEF will commit to support making helmets mandatory at competitions. "If you have the technology available to reduce head injuries you have to use it and the time is now," said O'Connor.

Dr Allen Sills, a Vanderbilt neurosurgeon with expertise in sports traumatic brain injury and concussion, gave several presentations at the symposium.

Other speakers included: Debbie Stanitski, President of the Equestrian Medical Safety Association; Dave Halstead with Southern Impact Research on current testing standards; Sara Ike (USEF) on the history of helmet rules; Dean Moran with Safety Equipment Institute; Tom Cafaro with G-Form LLC; Beezie Madden (jumping), Anne Kursinski (jumping), PJ Cooksey (racing), Lauren Sammis (dressage) and Peter Rizzo (polo) in a panel discussion; and presentations from the helmet manufacturers.

USEF CEO John Long summed up during the closing presentation of the symposium. His thoughts included that there is a need for more data, science and education and to make wearing helmets cool. "We need to find a way to implement the rules so that it's no longer optional, and it's easy to regulate. It is incumbent on my organization to get my house right to be a model for the more casual rider," he said.

Dr Craig Ferrell, Physician for the United States Equestrian Team and chair of the FEI Medical Council, said the gathering of stakeholders was unprecedented. "I am pleased with the positive response to the helmet symposium. It is important to continue this discussion and not lose the momentum we have initiated with this symposium."

The symposium was sponsored by USEF, Troxel Helmets, Charles Owen, GPA, Tipperary Helmets and Samshield Helmets.