Hockey helmet ratings of 62 helmets conducted by Virigina Tech’s Helmet Lab
Hockey helmet ratings of 62 helmets were conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech University’s Helmet Lab. They released a comprehensive study on the effectiveness of helmets in reducing the risk of concussion. The Lab specializes in injury biomechanics, with particular emphasis on investigating human tolerance to impact loading as well exploring ways to prevent injury.
According to the researchers, studying concussions is challenging because it is impossible to produce human brain injury in a laboratory environment. To work around these challenges, the researchers instrument populations (athletes) at elevated risk of sustaining a concussion.
All helmets on the market today must be certified to meet minimum safety requirements set by standards organizations. These standards are evaluated with testing on a pass/fail basis. However, not all helmets are created equal and two helmets that meet the standard may offer different levels of impact protection. The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab supplements these standards with sports-specific impact testing and rates helmets on a 5-star scale. This scale informs consumers on the relative differences of helmet protection in the context of reducing the risk of head injury.
Simply stated, the hockey helmet ratings identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk. More stars equate to better protection, with 5 stars representing the best available helmets. The Lab encourages athletes to choose helmets with 4 or 5 stars.
According to the Helmet Lab, a helmet’s rating is comprised of two components: the STAR score and the number of stars. STAR stands for the Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk, and the STAR score is calculated based on a helmet’s performance in a series of impact tests. The impact conditions are sports-specific and inclusive of the broad range of head impacts that athletes are likely to experience. STAR is based on two fundamental concepts:
1) Tests are weighted based on how often people experience similar impacts
2) Helmets that lower linear and rotational head acceleration reduce injury risk
A helmet with a lower score offers better protection. STAR scores are assigned a number of stars to categorize impact performance. The number of stars varies between 1 and 5, with 5 stars being the best.
- A lower score indicates better helmet performance
- Cost shown is the price of the helmet at the time of testing
A total of 62 hockey helmets have been rated using the STAR evaluation system. Their impact tests evaluate a helmet’s ability to reduce linear and rotational acceleration of the head resulting from a range of head impacts a hockey player might see on the ice. Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk for these impacts, compared to helmets with less stars.
Their ratings are an independent and objective assessment of helmet performance for consumers, free from manufacturer influence.
Each hockey helmet is rated based on the results of 48 impact tests in the laboratory. They test the helmet’s front, top, side, and back at low-, medium-, and high-impact energies. The low-impact severity represents the most common impacts in hockey; the medium-impact severity represents the typical concussion in hockey; while the high-impact severity represents the hardest impacts hockey players experience.
The researchers at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab emphasize that no helmet is concussion proof. Any athlete can sustain a head injury, even with the very best head protection. The helmet ratings identify the helmets that best reduce an athlete’s chances of sustaining a concussion. That being the case, helmets are only one piece of the equation to minimizing concussion risk.
Rule changes and coaching proper technique can result in fewer high-risk head impacts, and are perhaps most important. Having the best available head protection for the remaining head impacts further reduces risk.
For the full report and to view the helmet ratings, visit the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab website. For a more in-depth look at the testing methodology, please refer to the technical documents: Test Methodology; Memo on Changing the Ratings Scale; Hockey Rating Release News Article; Full Peer Reviewed Research for Hockey Helmet Performance.
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