Bicycle helmets: head impact dynamics in helmeted and unhelmeted oblique impact tests

Traffic Inj Prev. 2013;14(5):501-8. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2012.727217.


Objective: To assess the factors, including helmet use, that contribute to head linear and angular acceleration in bicycle crash simulation tests.

Method: A series of laboratory tests was undertaken using an oblique impact rig. The impact rig included a drop assembly with a Hybrid III head and neck. The head struck a horizontally moving striker plate. Head linear and angular acceleration and striker plate force were measured. The Head Injury Criterion was derived. The following test parameters were varied: drop height to a maximum of 1.5 m, horizontal speed to a maximum of 25 km/h, helmet/no helmet, impact orientation/location, and restraint adjustment. Additional radial impacts were conducted on the same helmet models for comparison purposes. Descriptive statistics were derived and multiple regression was applied to examine the role of each parameter.

Results: Helmet use was the most significant factor in reducing the magnitude of all outcome variables. Linear acceleration and the Head Injury Criterion were influenced by the drop height, whereas angular acceleration tended to be influenced by the horizontal speed and impact orientation/location. The restraint adjustment influenced the outcome variables, with lower coefficients of variation observed with the tight restraint.

Conclusions: The study reinforces the benefits of wearing a bicycle helmet in a crash. The study also demonstrates that helmets do not increase angular head acceleration. The study assists in establishing the need for an agreed-upon international oblique helmet test as well as the boundary conditions for oblique helmet testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Bicycling / injuries*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology*
  • Head Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manikins
  • Models, Biological