Most serious bicyclists as well as many who simply ride for fun and a bit of exercise wear helmets. Although Louisiana law only mandates bike helmets for those under 12, they can help protect against serious head injury. The right helmet can also reduce wind resistance and improve your speed.
Just how much do helmets reduce the risk of serious head injuries? While some brands tout their use of new technology that helps protect against concussions, the data isn’t conclusive. Certainly, consumers have a right to question helmet manufacturers’ own test data. Federal testing isn’t known for being the most current.
The unique challenges of testing bike helmets
There is another independent source of data on helmet performance. It’s the Helmet Lab at Virginia Tech. They test multiple types of helmets and rank them according to how well they protect wearers from brain injuries.
Bike helmets are more complicated to test than many other types of sports helmets because people fall from bikes in so many different ways. One of the lab’s directors says that “cycling is the most challenging” real-world scenario to recreate. One researcher says that because bicyclists don’t go for a ride expecting to crash, “we don’t have good quality video to figure out what typical cyclist head-impact conditions are.”
Those at the Helmet Lab note that riders typically move toward the ground vertically while they’re moving horizontally. That causes them to strike their head at an angle.
So do bike helmets actually prevent concussions?
According to those at the lab, the best results are seen in helmets with newer rotational technology to offset the rotational forces on the head during a fall from a bike. While no helmet can promise to prevent a concussion, as the researcher notes, “At the end of the day…they’re better than nothing.”
Of course, head injuries are just one type of injury that cyclists can suffer. Because they have nothing surrounding them for protection, they can suffer catastrophic and too often fatal injuries in a collision with a vehicle. If you or a loved one has been the victim of one of these crashes, it’s crucial to seek the full compensation you need for short- and long-term expenses and damages.