Why should you replace your riding helmet after a fall?
It’s common knowledge that you should replace your riding helmet after a fall. But do you know why it is so important?
Part of the testing a helmet undergoes in order to be certified to one or more international equestrian safety standards is impact testing. The most important quality of a helmet is to absorb or deflect the energy associated in an accident. The amount of energy available to cause injury is related to the speed and angle of impact, the surface impacted, and the weight of the head. Since it is impossible to assess a helmet’s ability to protect simply by looking at it, each helmet is tested in a vertical fall onto a steel anvil. The height of the fall and the maximum force on the headform are decided by each individual standard. Some tests even include freezing, waterlogging, or heating the helmet before it is dropped to ensure that it will offer the same level of protection in different weather conditions.
The layer of your helmet that is responsible for offering this protection is the expanded polystyrene (EPS) layer. EPS is made up of energy-absorbing beads that are full of air to form a microscopic bubblewrap. These beads burst when struck so that they can absorb and dissipate the energy of an impact to protect the skull.
Each time your helmet is impacted, the layer of EPS is compressed and therefore will not offer the same level of protection if it is struck again. Even if there is no visual damage to the outside of the helmet, the EPS layer is permanently compromised.
Because of this, if you have a fall in which you have hit your head, and especially if you suffered a concussion, it is essential to replace your helmet. This is because the helmet will never be able to offer the same level of protection if it is struck in the same place in another fall.
If you haven’t been in an accident with your helmet, it’s important to replace it after three to five years of consistent use due to natural wear and tear on the materials.