Assessment of current bicycle helmets for the potential to cause rotational injury

Concern has been expressed that current bicycle helmets may increase the risk of brain injuries from rotational motion. A range of child and youth bicycle helmets have therefore been tested to evaluate their linear and oblique impact performance. This data was used to assess the propensity of the helmet to influence rotational motion and was considered against post-mortem human surrogate data to allow comparison of the risk of injury to that of an unhelmeted head. Un-helmeted post-mortem human surrogate data indicates that a simple skull fracture for an unhelmeted head (injury rated as AIS 2) may occur at 5kN - 6kN which corresponds to between 100g and 150g for a head mass of between 4kg and 5kg. Assuming that the response of the unhelmeted head is similar to the helmeted head during an oblique impact at 8.5m/s at 15º, this may generate between 7500rad/s² and 12000rad/s² of rotational acceleration. This is potentially more severe than the 3000rad/s² to 8500rad/s² measured during abrasive and projection oblique tests with size 54cm (E) helmeted headforms. However, for the most severe cases using a size 57cm (J) headform, rotational acceleration was typically greater than 10,000rad/s² and increased to levels of 20,000rad/s², a level at which a 35% - 50% risk of serious AIS3+ injuries is anticipated. Overall, it was concluded that for the majority of cases considered, the helmet can provide life saving protection during typical linear impacts and, in addition, the typical level of rotational acceleration observed using a helmeted headform would generally be no more injurious than expected for a bare human head. However, in both low speed linear impacts and the most severe oblique cases, linear and rotational accelerations may increase to levels corresponding to injury severities as high as AIS 2 or 3, at which a marginal increase (up to 1 AIS interval) in injury outcome may be expected for a helmeted head. The true response of the bare human head to oblique, glancing blows is not known and these observations could not be concluded with certainty, but may be indicative of possible trends. A greater understanding is therefore needed to allow an accurate assessment of injury tolerance in oblique impacts. Linear impact performance, head inertia and helmet fit were identified as important contributory factors to the level of induced rotational motion and injury potential. The design of helmets to include a broad range of sizes was also concluded to be detrimental to helmet safety, in terms of both reduced linear and rotational impact performance. The introduction into EN1078 of an oblique impact test could ensure that helmets do not provide an excessive risk of rotational head injury. (A)


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  • Accession Number: 01051215
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport Research Laboratory
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Jun 11 2007 1:44PM