A helmet is arguably the most essential piece of equipment your player wears. After all, it protects their most important organ ... the brain.
While there are some pieces of equipment, like sticks, gloves, shin guards, and pants, where you can be more frugal, the opposite is true when it comes to the helmet. This statement is even more applicable to older players who are faster, bigger, and stronger and engage in full checking.
Note: I am not a doctor or expert on concussions, just someone who has played the sport at a high level, coached, and read a lot on the subject, so do your own homework. I have assembled the information below to hopefully provide you with some insights from others who are experts in the field.
While there is no helmet that can prevent a concussion, there are helmets that can better dissipate the energy from an impact before it reaches the head, leading to what
researchers deem lower head accelerations and, as a result, lower concussion risk. The best helmets reduce linear and rotational acceleration of the head, resulting from a wide range of head impacts. As stated in plain English, helmets that help disperse the force of a hit, which in turn slows head acceleration, can help mitigate the risk of concussions.
Virginia Tech (VA Tech), which has a renowned engineering lab, authored a study back in 2015 testing 32 hockey helmets and only one at the time; the Warrior Krown 360 provided what they considered adequate protection from rotational head accelerations, which are the main culprit in concussions, Thank goodness helmet technology has advanced a lot since that 2015 study with many more helmet now rating 5 stars in the Virginia Tech testing. Below we present the finding from their 2022 study.
One of the reasons we like the VA Tech study is not only the quality of the academic institution but the study is free from influence, What do we mean by free from influence? Simply stated, the Virginia Tech ratings are an independent and objective assessment of helmet performance for consumers and, probably more important, free from manufacturer influence. In other words, the VA Tech study was not paid for by the helmet manufacturers.
The VA Tech study rated each hockey helmet based on the results of 48 impact tests in their laboratory. As illustrated in the video below (hit the play button to view), a pendulum designed to match impact characteristics in hockey was used to test the helmets. The study measured linear and rotational accelerations for each impact, which are correlated to concussion risk.
The VA Tech study tested the helmet's front, top, side, and back at low, medium, and high impact energies. The low impact severity represents the most common impact in hockey. The medium-impact severity represents the typical concussion in hockey. The high impact severity represents the hardest impacts hockey players experience.
Each lab impact was weighted to highlight performance at concussive severities and to consider all locations equal. VA Tech engineers then computed concussion risk from measured peak linear and rotational accelerations for each test. Each risk was then multiplied by its weighting factor and then summed together to compute an overall score.
A lower score indicates better helmet performance - the lower score then translates into a star level, with five stars being the best.
What was interesting in the study was several mid, and lower-priced helmets scored very well. So the good news from a consumer standpoint is you do not have to spend a lot to get a good helmet.
Below is a list of 5 Star helmets with approximate price points from the VA Tech 2022 Study
CCM FL 500 - $199
Bauer RE-AKT 200 - $299
Warrior Krown 360 - $79
Bauer RE-AKT 75 - $119
Warrior Covert PX+ $179
CCM Resistance 300 -$159
Bauer 2100 - $35
Surprisingly, the True Dynamic 9 Pro, which employs the Multi-directional Impact Protection System or MIPS and was touted several years back as the latest head protection innovation, scored only three stars.
As you think about selecting a helmet, I would consider the level of play your child's in and the level of contact (full check vs. non-check). I would also account for where they are in their growth cycle. While you want to ensure your child has the best protection possible, buying a new helmet every year is the last thing you want to do.
Thinking about it as a dad who has a player entering high school this year, I'll probably go for one of the top two helmets and spend the extra money since the contact level, speed, and size of the players in high school increase the risk.
Clearly, for the younger player, where the contact is more minimal, plenty of helmets scored well and offer mid to lower price points like the Warrior Krown, the Bauer RE-AKT75, and the Bauer 2100. Looking at a playing timeline, I would probably start on the bottom of the list and move up as players got older, faster, and stronger. For example, personally, I would probably approach it like this:
Mites and Squirts - Bauer 2100.
PeeWees - Bauer RE-AKT 75 / Warrior Krown.
Bantams /Midgets/Highs School/College - CCM FL 500 / Bauer RE-AKT 200.
S0me notes about the VA Tech ratings:
A lower score offers better protection.
Cost shown is the price of the helmet at the time of testing.
*Any player in any sport can sustain a head injury with even the very best head protection. This analysis is based on data trends and probabilities; therefore, a specific person’s risk may vary. Genetic differences, health history, and impact factors such as muscle activation likely dominate this variation.
For access to the complete Virginia Tech Study, click here.
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