Equestrian helmets under scrutiny at Olympic forum

February 19, 2011

A presentation on future technology in safety helmets including those used in equestrian sport is on the agenda of an Olympic conference on the prevention of injury and illness.

At the 2011 IOC World Conference on Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in April, researcher Andrew McIntosh will chair a session on "Sports helmets now and in the future", with several leading researchers providing insights into Biomechanics, design, and future technologies.

The conference, from April 7 to 9 is designed as a continuation of the 1st and 2nd World Congresses on Sports Injury in 2005 and 2008, the sport and medical experts attending will look beyond injuries by including the topic of prevention of other health problems associated with sports participation.

Along with fellow researchers, McIntosh, of the University of New South Wales School of Safety of Risk and Safety Sciences, will also present a paper on "Development of a high performance jockey helmet", based on a recent study.

The study, "Development of new helmets to increase protection against severe injury/ head trauma" was funded by the National Jockey Safety Committee and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. During the study, six helmets were tested, and none complied with the European High Performance standard. In this standard, helmet samples are exposed to 50ºC, -20ºC, UV radiation and water conditioning prior to testing, impact testing of up to 3 metre drops, resistance penetration and lateral crush.

"Currently no helmet is made worldwide to meet this standard," the researchers said.

"There is still work to be done to meet the high standard requirements of low (1 m) and high (3 m) drop tests."

The study showed performance of the six helmets tested to be "fair" for 1m drops, "good" for 1.5m drops, "fair" for 2.5m drops, and "fair" on to hemispherical and V-anvils. It found that the retail price of the helmets were not correlated with performance.