Motorcycle accident victims worldwide account for more than 340,000 fatalities annually, with the Unites States ranking 8th highest in number of motorcycle accident deaths, largely due to non-mandatory motorcycle helmet requirements for adults in a number of States. Seventy-five percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve head and brain injury, with rotational forces acting on the brain the primary cause of mortality. Current motorcycle helmets are reasonably effective at reducing head injuries associated with blunt impact. However, the mechanism of traumatic brain injury is biomechanically very different from that associated with focal head injury. This study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of current motorcycle helmets at reducing the risk of traumatic brain injuries.
Ten motorcycle helmet designs, including full-face, three-quarter and half-helmets were evaluated at an average impact velocity of 8.3 ms-1 (18.5 mph) using a validated test apparatus outfitted with a crash test dummy head and neck. Sensors at the center of mass of the headform enabled high-speed data acquisition of linear and angular head kinematics associated with impact.
Results indicate that none of the standard helmet models tested provides adequate protection against concussion and severe traumatic brain injuries at moderate impact speeds. Only one of the standard motorcycle helmet models tested provided adequate protection against skull fracture.
A new motorcycle helmet prototype, incorporating a liner constructed from a composite matrix of rate-dependent materials was tested, with comparison to standard motorcycle helmet designs, with very promising results. Knowledge learned from this study will facilitate the development of a new generation of advanced motorcycle helmets that offer improved protection against both head and brain injuries.