July .30 .2014

Time For a Hockey Helmet Makeover?

Football has adopted a new standardized system for rating a helmet’s effectiveness in protecting against concussions. It has been credited with helping parents and players make better decisions about what helmets are best at reducing concussion risks.

The new standard is a five-point rating scale called the STAR system. It was developed by scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech, later used by the school’s football team in 2011. The football helmet rating system quickly caught on, encouraging manufacturers like Riddell and Rawlings to improve their helmet’s design.

Parents, too, have been listening. Sales of helmets with a five-star rating have spiked, whereas sales for low-rated helmets have plummeted. Even the NFL promoted the STAR rating system and posted ratings in every locker room around the league.

It’s now time for hockey helmets to improve.

A New York Times article says that researchers are looking to protect hockey players from concussions by introducing the same five-point rating system that is now standard in football. The STAR system measures every brand and model of hockey helmet and rates their effectiveness.

“After football, hockey is the sport that produces the highest rate of concussion,” said Dr. Stefan M. Duma, head of Virginia Tech’s biomedical engineering department. “We want to produce a mechanism to try and reduce that risk of concussion.”

The testing involves pendulums and accelerators crashing into hockey helmets at varying speeds and directions to simulate the impacts experienced by players during games. Sensors inside the helmet measure how effective the helmets are in reducing concussion risks.

Given the influence that the STAR system had on football helmet sales, representatives from major hockey helmet manufacturers are eagerly awaiting the results. “This is going to hit hockey like a ton of bricks,” said Dale Pfriem, president of ICS Laboratories, a company that assesses protective equipment.

The research team is hoping to publish their results in the fall.

http://youtu.be/X3_tXkRex5A

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Nicole Kelly

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