A fall from the back of a horse carries increased risks for head injuries, and while an increase in helmet use has helped reduce those injuries, the overall number of head injuries among riders is still high.
And choosing a helmet is a bit of a guessing game for riders. Word of mouth and anecdotal evidence seems to drive buying decisions and there is no rating system available that helps riders make an informed decision about which helmet to wear.
In hopes of providing some guidance and help lead manufacturers to produce safer helmets, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has set its sights on developing a rating system for riding helmets.
As part of a two-year project, the lab will develop a star system rating how effective the helmet protects riders. The lab’s helmet ratings identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk. More stars equate to better protection, with 5 stars representing the best available helmets. Consumer demands for five-star helmets will in turn drive manufacturers to develop helmets with the best protection.
Since 2011, the helmet lab has been providing unbiased helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing helmets. The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of research on head impacts in sports and identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk.
The lab has worked on helmets for several other sports, including football, hockey, and cycling. Each sport requires a very sport-specific evaluation system. For equestrians, helmets are tested against various surfaces such as grass and dirt, as well as from taller heights like a rider would experience during a fall from a horse.