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NRS & WRSI’s Response to Virginia Tech’s Whitewater Helmet Study

ArticleOctober 10, 2022

We are aware of the recently publicized whitewater helmet comparison test from Virginia Tech University. We take all safety questions seriously and are examining the methodology and findings of the test. Every WRSI helmet meets or exceeds CE 1385 standard for whitewater helmets for protection against blunt force trauma, which is the globally accepted measure for whitewater helmet safety.

Virginia Tech Whitewater Helmet Study

Superior Protection From Blunt Force Impact

Our preliminary assessment is that Virginia Tech results do not accurately reflect the protective capabilities of whitewater helmets as applied in real-world paddling scenarios. The testing methods VT used measure the helmets’ effectiveness against concussions caused by shaking of the brain within the skull due to acceleration of the head. WRSI helmets are engineered to protect primarily against life-threatening injuries in which the brain is directly harmed via blunt force impact to the skull. Our internal testing, as well as CE testing, provides a more accurate assessment of a whitewater helmet’s safety by measuring direct impact to the skull when blunt force is applied to the helmet.

In short, the Virginia Tech test appears to have been focused on different metrics from those commonly accepted for whitewater helmets. While concussions are a serious concern amongst whitewater paddlers, preventing life-threatening direct brain injuries is a whitewater helmet’s most essential function and the primary design objective of all WRSI helmet models. In fact, it was just such an injury that caused the death of kayaker Lukas Turner in 1998, which motivated his father, Cal, to create the Whitewater Research and Safety Institute.

Developed in Partnership With Johns Hopkins University

With the goal of developing a safer whitewater helmet, WRSI worked with researchers and engineers at Johns Hopkins University to design groundbreaking new technologies to mitigate the risk of blunt force traumas to the brain. These technologies include 3-Layer Impact Absorption, which protects the skull and brain from blunt force trauma by dissipating the force of impact, and the interconnect Retention System, which self-tightens the helmet under hydraulic forces to hold the helmet securely in place.

We have conducted extensive internal testing of WRSI helmets to measure their effectiveness in preventing life-threatening brain injuries resulting from blunt force trauma to the skull. In this measure, WRSI helmets routinely outperform other brands.

Virginia Tech Whitewater Helmet Study