Safety Ad-Hoc by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab


Among the forums at the USHJA Annual Meeting was a Safety Ad Hoc presented by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab with speaker Dr. Barry Miller. The helmet testing lab is the first of its kind in America, testing a variety of helmets in an array of sports for impact safety and concussion risk. 

The lab was founded on the idea that different sports need various tests to measure the impact of high velocity and rotational falls, all of which are unique amongst a variety of sports. The higher the rotational acceleration of a fall, the higher the risk of concussion and/or traumatic brain injury. 

Since 2018, over fifty thousand emergency room visits for head injuries were recorded amongst equestrians. In comparison to other high-risk sports, horseback riding accounts for 45.2% of total traumatic brain injuries recorded. 

Independent tests were run on Ovation, Troxel, Charles Owen, One K, Kask, and GPA helmets to determine their safety standards. Equestrian helmets are required to meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) approval at a 300g threshold, which is the marker for which skull fractures may occur. The issue with this standard of safety and testing is that it’s run on a pass/fail basis, meaning that if a helmet just barely meets the threshold it is still legal to ride in.

While Virginia Tech’s study on equestrian helmets is ongoing, Dr. Miller urges USHJA and USEF to support a proposal to assist in allocating funds in order to properly test as many helmets as possible in hopes of offering the safest equipment possible. More information about the program (as well as information for donating to the crowdfunding campaign) can be found here

About the Author: Annie Birmingham is an 18 year old equestrian from Long Island, New York. A freshman at Long Island University studying equine management, Annie can usually be found spending time at the barn and grooming at horse shows up and down the East Coast.

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