A new study from the Virginia Tech Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics has shown that many hockey helmets are deemed unsafe with regard to concussion prevention. The study, highlighted by ESPN’s Outside the Lines this past weekend, indicated that many hockey helmets fall below the standard set by the Virginia Tech rating system.
Concussions and concussion prevention are already a very touchy subject these days as injury prevention is being taken at every level of the sport and manufacturers are researching new technologies in an attempt to make players safer on the ice. However, this new report shows that each manufacturer needs to keep pushing.
The STAR rating system works on a scale of one-to-five, with five being the highest. Of the 32 helmets Virginia Tech tested, only one met the standard for three star protection. The other 31 helmets were either rated at two, one or zero stars.
The Warrior Krown 360 helmet was the lone helmet to rate at three stars, showing that it offers the most protection from impacts that can result in a concussion. The CCM Resistance 300 and 100, Bauer 5100 and 2100, the Warrior Krown LTE and the CCM Fitlite (previously the Reebok 11K) each tested at two stars.
|Not Recommended||One Star||Two Star||Three Star|
|Bauer 4500||Bauer RE-AKT 100||Bauer 5100||Warrior Krown 360|
|Bauer 9900||Bauer RE-AKT||Bauer 2100|
|Bauer IMS 7.0||Bauer IMS 11.0||CCM/Reebok Fitlite (11K)|
|Easton E400||Bauer IMS 9.0||CCM Resistance 300|
|Reebok/CCM 8K||Easton E700||CCM Resistance 100|
|Reebok/CCM 5K||Easton E600||Warrior Krown LTE|
|Reebok/CCM 3K||Easton E300|
Now, it’s important to remember that no helmet can prevent concussions altogether. Collisions or impacts that cause concussions seem to vary on a case-by-case and player-to-player basis. A fairly innocent bump along the board may not concuss me but it will concuss you. Conversely, a monster hit in open ice may not be as concussive as the impact caused when you fall to the ice after the hit.
The variables and differences in each of these cases make the marketing (from manufacturers) and the results of this test difficult to process. For example, the test itself was studying the results from direct impact to the head. This can be caused from everything from a tumble into the boards or net, an errant stick or puck to the head or even an opponent’s body part. What’s hard to identify is if (or how) Virginia Tech studies the results of hits that don’t impact the head. For example, a heavy open ice hit may not cause any direct impact to a player’s head, but the g-force caused by the check itself could still result in a concussive impact to the brain. This is why it is so important to consider both linear and rotational impacts (as the testing did).
Of course, the latter scenario is also a perfect example of how no helmet could truly prevent a concussion.
The other side of the coin here is how helmets are being marketed by manufacturers. The highest price point models consistently introduce new shell construction and interior upgrades. Yet, the study didn’t rate any elite model at higher than two stars – except for the Krown 360. Further, the test showed that different helmet models, which all share the same shell mold, performed at drastically different levels. The best example is the Bauer 5100 and 2100 garnering two stars while the 7500 was given one star and the 9900 was not recommended. Each of these helmets share a similar, if not identical shell design yet each performed at a different level in the testing environment. It’s an odd conundrum without taking the liner materials into consideration.
There are a few things that need to be taken away from these results. First, the HECC stickers that adorn all of the hockey helmets sold at Great Skate are not irrelevant. The HECC ratings are primarily focused on preventing injuries such as skull fractures. While a HECC sticker doesn’t ensure a helmet is concussion-proof, it doesn’t mean a helmet is unsafe either. Second, these ratings help to identify which helmets prevent against both linear and rotational impacts. This means that the tests identify more than just what happens if your head is struck by a stick or the boards. It works to identify the various types of events can potentially cause concussions. Lastly, no helmet can prevent concussions. The helmet industry as a whole is nowhere near finding the answer for this, so bear in mind that there isn’t a magical helmet on the horizon that will keep you safe in all scenarios.
What is important is for the industry to adjust to this study. Companies like Bauer, Warrior and CCM/Reebok need to step forward and do more than offer spin on the results. Each company should not only begin to take steps to make their helmets safe, but they should be displaying their STAR ratings in catalogs and on the boxes for each helmet.
If you’re looking to upgrade your helmet from what you’re currently wearing, Great Skate sells nearly every helmet utilized in the study, including the Warrior Krown 360, which received the highest rating of three stars.
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