Airbag cycle helmets are starting to become available in some European countries. But do they really offer better protection against serious injury?
US researchers recently compared an airbag helmet to traditional foam bike helmets. The results, published in the latest edition of Annals of Biomedical Engineering, show that airbag helmets may reduce impact by as much as six times compared to standard helmets.
David Camarillo is an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University. His lab works on understanding and preventing concussion.
“Foam bike helmets can and have been proven to reduce the likelihood of skull fracture and other, more severe brain injury,” Camarillo said. “But, I think many falsely believe that a bike helmet is there to protect against a concussion. That´s not true.”
The airbag helmet tested in the Camarillo Lab comes in a soft pocket worn around the neck. It inflates around the wearer´s head when it senses a potential collision. It was originally designed to address the fact that people don´t like to wear helmets for aesthetic reasons, the university explained.
“We conducted drop tests, which are typical federal tests to assess bicycle helmets, and we found that airbag helmets, with the right initial pressure, can reduce head accelerations five to six times compared to a traditional bicycle helmet,” reported Mehmet Kurt, a postdoctoral scholar in the Camarillo Lab.
Camarillo noted that testing the abilities of the helmets to reduce rotational forces would provide further evidence to show how they could protect against concussion. But he added that, given the large advantage of the airbag helmet in this study, there is a good chance it would reduce the likelihood of concussion compared to a foam helmet.