Let’s Talk About That Helmet Study

Let’s Talk About That Helmet Study

If you ride horses and have been on the internet in the past two months, chances are good you’ve heard about “that” helmet study -- specifically, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s Equestrian STAR Helmet Rating Project. 

On the plus side, we learned that a fancy helmet wasn’t necessarily any safer than a basic, no frills (and much less expensive) helmet when it comes to protecting against brain injury and concussion. On the not so plus side, many of us suddenly found ourselves with lower scoring helmets and no clue what to do next. We had questions that we hadn’t seen answered yet - not just about the study and its findings, but about helmets in general. Host Caroline Culbertson sat down with Dr. Barry Miller and Sydney Moriarity to tackle things like:

What should the average rider take away from this study? How do riding helmets compare to helmets in other sports? What does Sydney, a rider herself, make of these findings and how could it inform our helmet shopping approach? What about helmets for different disciplines and levels? (Yes, there are differences!) 

Dr. Miller joined the VA Tech Helmet lab in 2018 as their Director of Outreach and Business, and was a part of the study from start to finish. Sydney Moriarty received her BS degree in Neuroscience from VA Tech and brought her first hand, practical experience to the table as an accomplished rider in the Hunter/Jumper discipline. 

In this discussion, we also dive into:

  • The study’s methodology, and what the STAR rating means
  • What was so surprising about some of the outcomes
  • High Energy Impact vs Low Energy Impact falls, and why each type plays a huge role in helmet construction and safety
  • How hair length and style plays into helmet fit and safety (spoiler alert, long hair is ok!)
  • Why you probably shouldn’t put your helmet in the dishwasher…
  • How helmet companies are responding to the study, and what next steps for the sport might be

If you would like to see the full study, including the methodology, please head to the official Equestrian STAR Helmet Rating Project results and documentation page. 

Here’s a summary of how the final Equestrian STAR Ratings was determined by Dr. Stefan Duma.

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