It is well documented that hockey has a high rate of concussions compared to other contact sports. According to a study at Virginia Tech in May of 2015, the hockey helmets our kids are wearing before they step onto the ice might not be as safe as the manufacturers want us to believe.
Virginia Tech’s research evaluated 37 of the most popular hockey helmets on the market and used their STAR evaluation system to rate them. The more stars a helmet earned, the lower the risk of sustaining a concussion compared to helmets who scored a lower star rating. I want to reiterate that helmets cannot prevent concussions, but a better designed helmet can help to reduce the incidence and according to the results of this study, hockey helmets need to be improved.
From this study, it was found that no hockey helmets received a 5 or 4 star rating (the highest and best score), and only one helmet was worthy of 3 stars. Six helmets received a 2 star rating, sixteen received one star and nine helmets received the lowest possible score of 0 stars. It should be noted that it was recommended that no person should use a helmet with a 0 star rating.
The STAR formula, which stands for Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk, measures the probability of brain injury from a series of different impact conditions and locations. The evaluation process included more than 2,000 impact tests performed both on an ice rink and inside a laboratory. “The hockey STAR methodology provides a scientific framework for manufacturers to optimize hockey helmet design for injury risk reduction, as well as providing consumers with a meaningful metric to assess the relative performance of hockey helmets.”
How did hockey helmets match up against football helmets, another sport with a high incidence of concussions? Well…not so good. Twenty of the 26 football helmets recently tested using the same formula received a rating of 4 or 5 stars.
This independent study, which did not receive funding from helmet manufacturers, was performed to help manufacturers make better and safer helmets. To see the complete rankings of the different helmets used in this study, visit Virginia Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics website.
This study demonstrates an urgent need to develop safer hockey helmets for our children, in order to protect them against concussive type hits. It’s time for manufacturers to develop hockey helmets that can perform better on the ice. Hopefully this study wakes them up.