When it comes to participating in high-risk activities such as cycling, skateboarding, or skiing, most people know it’s essential to wear a helmet to prevent severe head injuries that could lead to permanent brain damage. We generally understand that helmets are designed to absorb the impact of a blow to the head, thereby reducing the risk of brain injury. However, many people still have questions about helmet use, for example: Do helmets prevent concussions? Do helmets prevent brain injury? And how do helmets protect the brain? This blog post will examine how helmets work, the types of injuries they prevent, and why wearing one is imperative.

Closca Helmet

Why Helmets Are Important

Helmets are designed to prevent traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), the most common type of brain injury associated with high-risk activities. TBIs can range from mild concussions to severe brain damage, depending on the impact’s force and the type of injury. Research has shown that helmets effectively prevent many TBIs. One study found that using bicycle helmets reduces head injury by 48%, serious head injury by 60%, traumatic brain injury by 53%, face injury by 23%, and the total number of killed or seriously injured cyclists by 34%. Another study found that using safety helmets during skiing and snowboarding decreases the risk and severity of head injuries compared to non-helmeted participants. Numerous other studies support these findings, supporting the importance of wearing a helmet in any situation that puts your brain at risk for TBI.

How Do Helmets Protect the Brain?

Helmets have been in use for decades and have undergone significant improvements in design and technology. Modern helmets are lightweight, durable, and offer better protection than their predecessors. They are specifically designed to reduce the force of impact on the skull and brain by providing a cushioning material between the head and any hard surface it may encounter.

A helmet’s outer shell usually consists of a hard, durable material, such as polycarbonate or fiberglass, that helps distribute impact forces across a larger surface area. The inner lining consists of a softer, energy-absorbing material, such as expanded polystyrene or polypropylene foam, that compresses and absorbs energy upon impact, reducing the risk of skull fractures and preventing or minimizing brain injuries.

Do Helmets Prevent Concussions?

Traditional helmets are designed to address linear forces from direct impacts. However, they are not as effective in managing rotational forces, which can lead to diffuse axonal injury (DAI) and concussion. Rotational forces occur when the head endures a twisting motion, which can cause the brain to move and twist within the skull, potentially leading to the shearing and stretching of nerve fibers (axons) and blood vessels. In other words, while helmets can help protect against skull fractures and serious brain injuries, they can’t stop the brain’s movement inside the skull responsible for concussions.

However, researchers are working to develop new helmet designs that address this issue by incorporating technologies such as MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system), which allows the helmet to rotate slightly upon impact, reducing the rotational forces transmitted to the brain. One study involving football players also illustrates that a helmet’s ability to reduce concussions depends on the helmet model. It found that though helmet design may never prevent all concussions from occurring in football, the right design can reduce the incidence of football-related concussion-type brain injuries. 

The level of protection a helmet provides against concussion can also depend on the type of activity it’s designed for. For example, a bicycle helmet is designed to protect against low-speed impacts, while a motorcycle helmet is designed to protect against high-speed impacts. Therefore, wearing the proper helmet is essential. Another limitation in preventing concussion depends on how well a helmet fits the wearer. A poorly fitting helmet may not provide adequate protection and could even increase the risk of injury in some cases. Thus a properly fitting helmet is equally important,

Overall, it’s crucial to note that while helmets may not entirely prevent concussions and TBIs, they can still help to absorb and distribute the force of an impact, reducing the risk. It is also essential to understand their limitations and to use them in combination with other safety measures, such as following traffic laws, using appropriate equipment, and practicing safe behaviors.

How Well Do Helmets Prevent Closed vs. Opened Head Injuries?

The primary focus of helmet design is to address linear forces from direct impacts, which are more commonly associated with closed-head injuries. Closed head injuries, also known as blunt force injuries, occur when the head suffers a non-penetrating impact, often leading to brain swelling, bruising, or bleeding without breaking the skull. Helmets can be highly effective in preventing or reducing the severity of closed-head injuries, as they are meant to absorb and distribute the force of impact, lessening the force transmitted to the skull and brain.

Open head injuries occur when an object penetrates the skull and comes into direct contact with the brain. While helmets can provide some protection against open-head injuries by serving as a barrier between the head and external objects, they are not designed to withstand high-velocity impacts that can penetrate the skull.

Overall, a helmet’s effectiveness at preventing both types of injuries depends on factors such as helmet design, fit, and the nature of the impact. However, helmets play a crucial role in reducing the risk of head injuries in general, with a more substantial impact on preventing closed head injuries due to their design and function.

GJEL Accident Attorneys: TBI Advocacy You Can Count On

At GJEL, our skilled legal advocates have fought tirelessly to protect clients’ rights for 40 years. We believe in treating TBI sufferers with compassion and respect and handling every TBI case with the urgency it deserves. We’ve recovered nearly $1 billion for injury victims while maintaining a 99% success rate by ensuring bad actors and their insurance companies know we mean business. If someone else’s negligence caused you or a loved one’s TBI, call GJEL at 1-866-268-7118 for a free case review. We’re here to talk with you 24/7.

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