VCOM Research Day Program Book 2023

Undergraduate Student Research Biomedical

01 Onsite Field Testing of Equestrian Helmets

Lauren A. Duma; Barry Miller; Mark T. Begonia; Stefan M. Duma Corresponding author:

Virginia Tech – Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science – Blacksburg

Equestrian sports contribute 45% of all sports-related traumatic brain injuries. Given the high number of head injuries in equestrian sports, it is important to have a methodology to evaluate equestrian helmets relative to both linear and rotational head accelerations. The objective of this study was to quantify the biomechanics of equestrian head injuries, and to determine how to test equestrian helmets in the lab. Onsite field testing of equestrian helmets was conducted at the Smithfield Horse Center at Virginia Tech. A portable I-pendulum (inverted pendulum) was designed and fabricated for these onsite impact tests (Figure 1). A NOCSAE headform was attached at the end of the pendulum with a Hybrid III 50 th percentile male neck. A total of 60 impact tests, with five equestrian helmet types, three impact locations, two impact speeds, and two surface types were performed. The linear acceleration, rotational acceleration, and rotational velocity traces were recorded for each test. Five equestrian helmets ranging in price were selected for the onsite testing: the Troxel Sport, Troxel Spirit, Troxel Spirit Low Profile, Ovation Jump Air, and the One K Defender.

Three impact locations, the front, side, and back of the head, were chosen for onsite testing (Figure 1). Each impact location was tested at two impact speeds: 5.0 m/s and 6.3 m/s. These impact speeds represent falls from a medium fall height and a high fall height. Helmet testing was performed on raked sand and raked and smoothed dirt surfaces. A Clegg impactor (Turf-tech International, Tallahassee Florida) was used to measure the density and impact attenuation of both surfaces. The Clegg impactor is commonly used for evaluating the safety of sporting surfaces, including equestrian surfaces such as dirt, sand, turf, synthetic, and grass racetracks. The sand surface used for testing had a CIV of 30, and the dirt surface had a CIV of 120. The linear acceleration and rotational acceleration traces from the onsite testing were compared to the those of two potential testing rigs: the free headform drop tower and the pendulum impactor. The pendulum impactor linear and rotational acceleration traces showed excellent agreement with the traces from the onsite testing on both sand and dirt surfaces. These data will be critically important when designing new standards for helmet and chest protection devices.

Figure 1: Onsite field-testing setup for a back impact at 6.3 m/s on a dirt surface using the I-pendulum (A), and the three impact locations: back (B), side (C), and front (D).

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