Usually, helmets worn by child football players get attention but now, there is concern pertaining to hockey helmets. In addition to children, helmets worn by female hockey players are under scrutiny. In a new study conducted by the helmet testing department with Virginia Tech, helmets that are strapped on prior to playing hockey provide little safety.
Researchers with Virginia Tech just released findings of the study, which stretched over a three-year period. The focus of the study was to determine the ability of 32 hockey helmets deemed to be the most popular. Although the helmets claim to offer protection against concussion, the study showed that not only are they ineffective but results were much worse than anticipated.
As part of the study, a star-rating system was used. This consisted of:
- 0 Stars – Not recommended
- 1 Star – Marginal protection
- 2 Stars – Adequate protection
- 3 Stars – Good protection
- 4 Stars – Very good protection
- 5 Stars – Best available helmets on the market
Using this system, the helmets were rated and of the 32 tested, none reached the four or five-star level. In addition, just one hockey helmet was given three stars while six had two stars and 16 only one. However, nine of the 32 helmets were at the zero level.
Using football helmets as a point of comparison, 20 of 26 helmets for this sport tested by researchers were given four or five stars. However, in a statement from Stefan Duma, head of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech said that football helmets have been manufactured for a much longer period of time so it was no surprise that they outperformed helmets made for hockey.
Duma added that overall, the football sport has made more effort over the past several years to improve helmet safety compared to the hockey industry but according to this latest study, hockey needs to step up to the plate to make critical changes.
Based on the study’s findings, it is expected that companies responsible for manufacturing hockey helmets, especially those worn by children and women, will make appropriate changes that ensure better protection against concussions. To accomplish this, the size of hockey helmets would need to be larger than what they are today.
Duma, along with Steven Rowson, assistant professor and Bethany Rowson a doctoral student, published the findings of the study in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering. In order to determine the level of safety that hockey helmets currently offer, the team worked for three years and spent roughly $500,000, none of which came from helmet manufacturers.
As part of the study, each helmet’s safety was assessed. This involved creating a test that simulates not only the average hits taken by a normal hockey player but also the magnitude of those hits. Each helmet was hit twice in four directions at three levels of energy. In all, helmets went through 48 tests. Total impacts of the study were over 2,000, performed in a laboratory setting but also on the ice.
Clearly, just because helmets were more expensive did not make them safer for protecting players from concussions. As an example, the highest priced hockey helmet was tested. At a price of $80, the Warrior Krown 360 only received 1 star.