New research into the effectiveness of bicycle helmets reveals it could reduce the number of brain injuries among riders.
The paper, published by Imperial College London, explores how well different types of helmets protect against sudden blows to the head.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are unfortunately common among cyclists. Most injuries result from a “sudden impact” or “jolt” to the head, causing bleeding, unconsciousness, and potential changes to the brain leading to memory loss, mood and personality changes and lack of concentration.
However, advancements in helmet technology in recent years mean previously life-changing injuries, can be lessened.
Researchers say the way the effectiveness of bike helmets is currently being tested “leaves room for improvement” because most tests do not account for the “rotational forces” at play when cyclists fall to the ground at speed.
In place of existing tests, the university has developed and demonstrated a new “simulation-enabled” helmet testing technique that assesses how well helmets protect heads from rotational forces.
The research found that the newest helmet technologies “reduced whole-brain strain compared with older helmets”, but the effectiveness of newer helmets “depended on their technology and location of impact”.
Meanwhile, some helmets which claimed to specifically reduce rotational forces, did not work at all – suggesting that riders could be unknowingly purchasing unsafe helmets.
Commenting on the study, lead author Fady Abayazid said: “The amount of people cycling since the COVID-19 pandemic began has doubled on weekdays and trebled on weekends in parts of the UK. To keep themselves safe, it’s important that cyclists know the best way to protect their heads should they have a fall or collision.
“Cyclists falling from motion will most often hit the ground at a non-right-angle. These angles produce rotational forces that subject the brain to twisting and shearing forces – factors contributing to severe TBIs, which can be life-altering.
“Without a robust, fit-for-purpose testing method and scientific backing, consumers remain underinformed and designers have no specific measures to improve their design decisions.”
Co-author Dr Mazdak Ghajari added: “Our research could help to address this gap, inform customers, improve safety, and reduce the frequency and severity of TBIs from cycling.”
According to the latest statistics, in 2016-2017, there were 348,000 admissions to UK hospitals with an acquired brain injury – the latest data available.
At Synergy Complex Care we specialise in providing personalised care and support for adults and children with brain injuries.
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