Protective Headgear for Special Needs
and Developmental Disabilities
Summary: Helmets made specifically for people with developmental disabilities and seizures are available. Bike helmets are probably not optimal for most patients. Soccer headbands or martial arts headgear may work better.
Where can I find the helmet my child's doctor recommended: a protective headgear for a person with developmental disabilities and seizures that is just a round band (like a donut, he said)?
And our advice:
First, we are talking about "headgear" here as opposed to a traditional bicycle-style helmet. It will be somewhat softer and designed for a lesser impact than a bicyle rider experiences hitting pavement. If what you want is a bicycle helmet for riders who have previously suffered a brain injury, check out this page instead.
We would prefer to guide you to headgear made specifically for special needs and developmental disabilities, but we only know of a few, and we do not know of a standard by which special needs headgear would be tested. In the case of epileptics, there is a page on helmets on the Epilepsy.com site that you should read first. And here is a video featuring a parent with a British child wearing what they refer to as a "scrum-type" headgear. There are links to other pages on epilepsy helmets on this UK blog.
For background, there is at least one medical journal article available on Medscape about helmets for kids with head injuries. It is titled Protective Helmets for Children With Special Health Care Needs, by Raphael C. Sneed, MD, and Christine Stencel, MA, Children's Rehabilitation Center, Department of Pediatrics, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson (Ms. Stencel is a Private Research Assistant in Oakton, Va.). It appeared in the Southern Medical Journal in 2001. The article is not informative on what helmet to use, but points out some of the considerations, and has a great page of other articles when you click on References. Medscape will require you to register to see the article, but they don't charge for it.
Here in alphabetical order are some manufacturers we are aware of. We don't know anything about the protective abilities of their headgear, or the quality of the products. These are protective caps, not designed for the heavy impacts seen in bicycling.
You can find many more with a Google search for "protective headgear special needs"
- ComfyCaps has soft caps used for children with hemophilia by at least one parent who emailed the link to us.
Guardian Helmets has a full-coverage fabric-covered foam headgear designed for rugby. In an email to us the manufacturer states that the Guardian has been certified to the International Rugby Association's headgear standard. It is constructed of lycra-covered EVA foam. It has a hook-and-loop chinstrap and laces in the back to manage fit.
- Headbumpa of Australia has headgear for "bumps" available on their Web site.
- HeadSaver of Australia has headgear for adults.
- Labumpa of the UK has "water recreation headwear" with a fabric outer and liner, and a 7mm "high density flexible cushioning layer in between.
- Opti-cool Headgear makes headgear from EVA foam with sizes to fit heads from 17.5 inches to 26.25 inches in circumference. The price is $70, with custom graphics available at an additional $15 to $30. The Web page has photos and ordering info.
- Plum Enterprises makes protective headgear for anyone from toddlers to adults in need of head protection around the house after head injury, surgery, during epileptic seizures, etc. Their Web page has photos and ordering info.
- Thudguard makes an "infant safety hat" for infants from 7 months to 2.5 years. They are made in the UK and cost about $38 with $14.25 shipping to the US. They are now available in the US from Babies First Headgear for $40 plus shipping.
You may also find what the Doctor ordered from one of two other sources: a soccer equipment supplier or a martial arts equipment supplier. There are standards by which those types of headgear can be tested, but they are for soccer use and martial arts use. Only you can decide if that is appropriate for your need.
Soccer headgear is one possibility. Here for example is a soft headgear made by Full 90. According to the manufacturer it is designed to help protect the player from impact with other players, the ground and goalposts, and is not primarily for protection from ball heading because heading is thought to be a lot less injurious. We don't know where to find one, but they can tell you that somewhere on their Web site.
This is just one example of soccer headgear. We found it with this Google search.
Martial Arts Headgear
You may also find a suitable headgear from a martial arts equipment supplier. Those have great protection if the patient is kicked in the head! Here is at least one. We found it with this Google search, and we know that there are others. If possible, get one that meets the ASTM F-2397 standard for martial arts headgear.
If you find some other type of helmet that meets your doctor's description of what you need, please let us know so that we can add it to this page.
This page was updated or partially revised on: March 4, 2016.