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Helmet Know How

ArticleMay 18, 2011

Do you need a paddlesports-specific helmet? Yes. Can’t you just re-use your bike (or other sport) helmet? Nope. Let us explain.

A Question We Often Get

“I have a helmet I use for biking (or climbing, snowboarding, etc.). I was wondering if I can use the same one for paddling?”

Our Answer

No. Helmets for various sports are designed and certified to protect your head in different ways and from different levels of impact. The impact you might receive from a fall while on your bike is different from the impact to your head if you hit a rock while boating. Also, helmets are shaped with specific activities in mind, to provide protection to the parts of the head most likely to be impacted. Bike helmets sold in the US have to meet a standard set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Watersports helmets are certified under a European standard.

The testing procedure is pretty interesting. The manufacturer sends multiple samples of each size helmet to an independent testing lab. They are then subjected to tests for impact absorption, the strength of the chin strap and how well the helmet stays on during impact. The helmets are placed on head forms, with the approximate weight of a head, and then mounted in the various standardized testing devices.

For impact absorption the head form, which contains an internal accelerometer, is mounted upside down, raised to the specified height and dropped onto various shaped metal “anvils.” If the accelerometer measures an excessive g-force, the helmet fails.

Another part of the testing exposes the helmets to the environmental conditions they will be subjected to in the real world. For example, watersports helmets are soaked in water for a period of time before testing.

Buying two quality helmets to protect yourself in the pursuit of your active lifestyle may seem like a big investment, but think of it as insurance. It only takes one hard knock to be reminded of the importance of having the right helmet!