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Virginia Tech's STAR helmet ratings

Summary: Virginia Tech University has developed a methodology for testing helmets for their ability to reduce concussions. After football and hockey helmets, they will soon launch ratings for bicycle helmets

Virginia Tech has been involved in concussion research in football for a number of years, outfitting teams with sensors to detect concussion-level hits and developing a database of hits and diagnoses. They launched a new program called STAR ratings based on that research, rating football helmets on their ability to prevent concussions. Although there is no agreement among concussion experts that the ratings are based on exact concussion parameters, we think they represent a valid attempt to use lab testing to highlight concussion-level performance. Dr. Stefan Duma has been at the head of the program, with Dr. Steven Rowson.

After football, VT took on hockey helmets. Now at last in 2018 they are developing a program to rate bicycle helmets. It is headed up by Megan Bland, a Graduate Research Assistant and PhD Candidate at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab in their Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. She is working with Dr. Duma and Dr. Rowson, and the methodology is similar to the football and hockey helmet programs. Their STAR ratings page has all the details.

Standards development has lagged far behind the increased concern with concussion-level impacts. The science is still developing and standards-makers are reluctant to introduce new benchmarks until the exact anatomical parameters are clear. The Virginia Tech approach is an attempt to use field data to get close enough to concussion causality to rate helmets on their ability to perform in the range of impacts that lead to concussions. For that reason we consider their program an important advance in helmet testing.

Here is a presentation that BHSI's Randy Swart did for the International Conference on Safety in Cycling in 2017. It outlines our hopes for the rating systems being developed by Virginia Tech and other universities in the UK, Europe and Australia.

We look forward to the release of the first bicycle helmet STAR ratings this year.

This page was revised on: March 15, 2018. BHSI logo
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