MIPS helmet tech: Protecting the brains you were born with

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With over 20 years of research and more than 31,000 helmet tests in their state-of-the-art test lab in Sweden MIPS (which is short for Multi-directional Impact Protection System) know that protecting your head from rotational motion during an impact is nearly as important as wearing a helmet in the first place.

Why do I need a helmet?

MIPS are helping define a new standard of helmet testing

Protecting your head while riding is crucial. Head and brain injuries resulting from a crash, fall, or heavy impact with an object can lead to a range of complications, from concussions to more severe traumatic brain injuries.

Thankfully, with advances in helmet technology and neuroscience, today’s helmets have more safety features that address brain safety as well as direct impacts.

But while it’s a life protection aid, they don’t last forever. You should replace your helmet every three to five years, or sooner if it has been involved in an accident – even if it doesn’t appear damaged.

When should I buy a new helmet?

As a general rule, a motorcycle helmet should be replaced every three to five years, or sooner if it has been involved in an accident.

This is because the materials used in manufacturing helmets have a shelf life, and environmental factors like temperature and UV light can have an adverse effect on a helmet’s ability to protect the head over time. Always check with the helmet manufacturer if you are uncertain.

Don’t all helmets protect the head to the same degree?

All certified helmets offer a baseline level of protection from certain types of impacts. Historically and currently, helmets are tested for linear, direct impacts by dropping them onto a flat anvil.

Although useful, it’s very rare you fall in a straight line, or at a precise 90-degree angle. Nearly every time a crash occurs, the far more common risk is of some kind of glancing, oblique impact, that may result in a damaging rotational motion to the brain.

Why does rotational motion matter?

The diagram shows the effectiveness of MIPS technology

All certified helmets offer a baseline level of protection from certain types of impacts. Helmets are tested for linear, direct impacts by dropping them onto a flat anvil – but when you fall, it’s very rare that you fall in a straight line, or at a precise 90-degree angle. Nearly every time a crash occurs, the far more common risk is of some kind of glancing, oblique impact that may result in a damaging rotational motion to the brain.

Rotational motion causes the brain to move and deform or stretch inside the skull, which has been linked to severe brain injuries, as well as milder concussions.

What features should I look for in a helmet?

A helmet must fit snugly, be well adjusted, feel comfortable, and should also protect against linear and angled impacts. A poor-fitting helmet that’s lacking a rotational protective solution may increase your risk of injury in an accident.

Additional features to consider are ventilation, weight, overall design, and intended use. These features can vary widely from brand to brand and can influence price.

Which helmets are safest?

MIPS is invisible from the outside, but crucial on the inside

SNELL and ECE certify helmets for Europe and the US, testing for linear impacts, while a testing standard for rotational motion is still in development. MIPS is pushing for an industry-wide requirement to hold a rotational motion solution.

The MIPS Brain Protection System, already fitted to selected brands of helmet, is a low friction layer inside the helmet mimicking the function of the brain’s own cerebrospinal fluid. It allows 10-15mm of movement under load at the precise moment of impact, which can reduce the rotational motion that may otherwise be transmitted to the brain.

How do I choose a helmet without a testing standard?

You should exercise caution when a helmet brand makes claims about reducing the incidence of injury. Evaluating the risk of a concussion resulting from a crash is a highly variable event, unique to the individual impact and rider physiology. No two crashes, or people, are the same.

However, it is possible to make objective claims about how much a particular solution reduces rotational motion, how quickly it does so, and whether it does so under the intense loads associated with helmet impacts.

All helmets equipped with the MIPS technology are tested by MIPS to make sure they perform in accordance with an established, well-researched MIPS standard, under a strict set of testing requirements.

While MIPS has invested its entire existence into this area of research, others are also stepping up. The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) has also now established the FIM Racing Homologation Programme for helmets, which specifically addresses rotational motion.

The resulting regulations have already been implemented at the highest forms of racing, such as MotoGP, with additional certifications expanding to other forms of racing in the near future. So if you want the level of protection deemed necessary in MotoGP, look for the yellow dot.

We hope this has given you some good background on your search for a new helmet and a safer time when out on your motorcycle.

Now, go out there and have fun - and wear your helmet!

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MCN

By MCN

The voice of motorcycling since 1955