Differences in Impact Performance of Bicycle Helmets During Oblique Impacts

J Biomech Eng. 2018 Sep 1;140(9). doi: 10.1115/1.4040019.


Cycling is a leading cause of sport-related head injuries in the U.S. Although bicycle helmets must comply with standards limiting head acceleration in severe impacts, helmets are not evaluated under more common, concussive-level impacts, and limited data are available indicating which helmets offer superior protection. Further, standards evaluate normal impacts, while real-world cyclist head impacts are oblique-involving normal and tangential velocities. The objective of this study was to investigate differences in protective capabilities of ten helmet models under common real-world accident conditions. Oblique impacts were evaluated through drop tests onto an angled anvil at common cyclist head impact velocities and locations. Linear and rotational accelerations were evaluated and related to concussion risk, which was then correlated with design parameters. Significant differences were observed in linear and rotational accelerations between models, producing concussion risks spanning >50% within single impact configurations. Risk differences were more attributable to linear acceleration, as rotational varied less between models. At the temporal location, shell thickness, vent configuration, and radius of curvature were found to influence helmet effective stiffness. This should be optimized to reduce impact kinematics. At the frontal, helmet rim location, liner thickness tapered off for some helmets, likely due to lack of standards testing at this location. This is a frequently impacted location for cyclists, suggesting that the standards testable area should be expanded to include the rim. These results can inform manufacturers, standards bodies, and consumers alike, aiding the development of improved bicycle helmet safety.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Bicycling*
  • Head Protective Devices*
  • Mechanical Phenomena*
  • Risk
  • Rotation