Bike helmets make great holiday gifts: Virginia Tech Helmet Lab helps make informed decisions

Bike helmets

Megan Bland, a biomedical engineering and mechanics doctoral student, positions a bicycle helmet for testing. Bland conducted most of the research behind new five-star safety ratings that describe how well different helmets reduce head-injury risk.

Just in time for last minute holiday shopping, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has released ratings for 20 bike helmets, supplementing the initial set of 30 ratings published earlier this year.

“There’s a huge array of choices in the bike-helmet market; our goal with the ratings is to give cyclists an evidence-based way to make informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of head injury,” said Steve Rowson, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics in the College of Engineering and the helmet lab’s director. “We targeted some of the most popular models in our first set of ratings, and now we’re expanding outward so that we can reach as many consumers as possible.”

The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has been rating protective headgear since 2011. They started with football helmets, then expanded to hockey, soccer, and now cycling (and more sports are in the works). Intended to infuse some science into the sometimes arbitrary process of helmet selection, the ratings have also helped guide manufacturers in the design of safer equipment.

The lab is continuing to test more helmet models and update the ratings as new data is available. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety funded the project and contributed to the research.


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