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Are some helmets 'safer'?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm curious about this...

Both my sons (hard-core skiers who go insanely fast, take big jumps, etc) have worn helmets for years. Boeri, Salomon and Giro - the two criteria they used to judge them by were, 1) did it fit comfortably? and 2) did it look cool?

I didn't wear a helmet for years - then 6 years ago got hit hard from behind at high speed by an out of control snowboarder - had a minor concussion - and decided to buy a helmet. So I went out and bought one which seemed to fit - a Briko (full style, not 'shorty').

Recently one of my sons lost his helmet (a Salomon) and convinced me to give him my Briko (which he always liked - and fit him very well). So I did - and had to go shopping for a new helmet. Couldn't decide what to buy - but finally settled on a Leedom Scream Cut which is very comfortable. But, also, Leedom does a lot of publicity about how THEIR helmets have passed rigorous SNELL safety inspections - but other helmets haven't.

It sounded good to me at the time, and the helmet is damn comfortable.

But I'm curious - are Leedom's claims (about safety) founded in fact? is there really a difference between helmet x and helmet y? I've always thought that full helmets had to be safer than shorty helmets but - is this true?

What's everyone else's experience - or thoughts - or philosphy - on this question?

-Miguel
post #2 of 18
A couple of years ago the CE (Euro) standard was the toughest for helmets to pass. Snell was a little slow setting up the protocal specific to ski helmets. You should be able to go to the snell or CE website and find their test methods. Differences used to include things like impact by a round object of determined weighted dropped from 1m but CE used a sharp edge for point of impact. I think there was also some test for multiple blows. I'm not current on it nor do I remember that clearly but it should be on the websites.
post #3 of 18
Being a former offroad motorcycle racer, I've studied to some extent the motorcycle helmet industry and its related safety standards. I believe the concepts would be applicable to ski helmets.

There are a lot of different types of impacts that need to be considered, and some helmets may be better at protecting from one type, but worse at another. For example, Snell standards have been criticized for lacking a "duration of the impact" element. DOT's standards generally were more forgiving regarding peak impact levels, but they included standards regarding impact duration. The argument could be analogized with.... would you rather have me drive my car over your foot, or would you rather have me park on your foot. Tell a good helmet manufacturer specifically the type of impact you're going to suffer, and they can design a helmet with better chances of protecting you.

Be wary of any claims of broad-based superiority. In general, I would say, Bell Helmets' old saying is probably the best advice..... If you have a $10 head, wear a $10 helmet.

The bottom line, IMHO: buy a quality helmet from a manufacturer who is involved as a leader in the industry. A knock-off from a no-name manufacturer is more likely to suffer from design flaws that could increase the chances of injury in certain types of impact.

My head has been saved by my motorcycle helmets on numerous occasions. I won't wear a cheap helmet. That doesn't preclude one from still seeking sale prices on quality helmets, however.

AM.
post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiguelATF

What's everyone else's experience - or thoughts - or philosphy - on this question?

-Miguel
When I was patrolling two years ago I recall reading a ski safety article on helmets. the point of the article was regarding chin guarded helmets.

the findings were that you were more likely to have a serious neck or back injury, even in slow speed and low impact situations, due to the chin gaurd forcing rotation or catching causing unnatrual motion.

I just purchased my first ski helmet (used to wear MX helmet in park) and did not purchase a chin guarded model due to my reading of the article.

Sure I love the look of a chingaurded model but I do beleive that it's use comes with some serious concequences for the added "safety" of a chin guard to stop oncomming inpact and the good ole face slam.

Mark
post #5 of 18
The Dec 2003 Consumer Reports had a review of ski helmets:

Some summary points:

Quote:
There are no federal safety standards for ski helmets, but
all the helmets we tested claim compliance (via a label or
sticker) with at least one of three industry helmet
standards for recreational skiing and snowboarding.
Those standards are from the European Committee for
Standardization, ASTM International, and the Snell
Memorial Foundation. All mandate tests for impact
absorption, retention-system (strap-and-buckle) strength,
and stability on the head, and also specify a minimum
head area the helmet must protect. ....

Judging by our tests, all helmets bearing a label or sticker
certifying compliance with industry standards don't
necessarily protect your head equally. That's a reason to
choose from among the first 10 models in the Ratings.

And their ratings:

1. Giro Nine
2. Giro Fuse
3. Leedom Scream (High Performance)
4. Leedom Limit (Youth Performance)
5. K2 Automatic
6. Uvex Hawk
7. Briko Forerunner
8. Carrera Big Air
9. Boeri Myto Air EB (discontinued)
10. Boeri Kameleon

Best short-shell helmets:
1 Giro 2 Giro
Best full-shell helmets:
3 Leedom 7 Briko
Likely to fit kids as young as age 4:
4 Leedom

Not acceptable:
Boeri Rage
post #6 of 18
I also read somewhere about the Snell standards in Leedom helmets.
In the 2004/2005 catalog there´s not a mention about Snell. Alle Leedom helmets have certification ASTM (F)2040 and/or CE 1077.

Another thing I have read was that the European CE 1077 has been mellowed somewhat recently to enable some better ventilation systems.

Third, the chinguard helmets. Just imagine the skier sliding belly down legs first, the chinguard bouncing the ground and the back of the helmet injuring the skier´s neck.
I know about a kid who was lucky enough to wear such a helmet too big so that it finally went off his head completely leaving him with some pain in the neck.

Fourth, the helmets with the carbon fiber shell (Carrera Fiber, maybe some more) might provide better protection.
OTOH, the lighter inmold-helmets slightly less protection.
The full-shell helmets more than short-shell. Removing the ear covers there is an abrupt edge of the shell which might prevent sliding over the snow and put some stress on the neck.
post #7 of 18
Another thing I just remembered about the CE vs Snell standard. Apparently CE selects helmets randomly from the production line and they are retested ongoing as the product remains in production. Snell apparently only tests new models once and tests the units submitted by the manufacturer and possibly hand picked for the purpose. Again this was the situation a couple of years back and may no longer be the case.

I do agree with the comments above regarding chin guards and also believe the drawbacks outweigh any benefit. On a similar note I believe in helmets with open ears. It can be argued that the covered ears offer better protection and perhaps are the thing to wear on a closed race course. I think having the ears open on public slopes in the hope hearing an impending collision might help avoid it outweighs the extra protection.
post #8 of 18
the original leedom helmet (scream and limit) are still both Snell RS 98 approved
snell does a complete series of tests on helmets intended for sale to customers in the full size range of offered helmets. they then do random follow ups on helmets bought at retail.
cold and warm testing is done.

iirc CE norm is a joke. the manufacurer submits one helmet and if it passes they "agree" to make all their helmets to that standard.

CE is a quasi governmental standard(again going from memory) Snell is a testing foundation dealing specifically with helmet safety. a manufacturer pays to see if their products will pass(at one point leedom had the only snell approved winter sports helmet, now there may be more?)
to compete with some of the inmold helmets leedom introduced the vandal/zen/prophet hence the lack of snell stuff in the new catalog.

the poly carbonate shell/impact crush zone scream and limit are still available though just so you know.

the consumer report test is/was a good indicator of helmet performance but it was not as stringent as snell fwiw.

for more info on snell info@smf.org or www.smf.org


oh yeah, i am biased i sell leedom, been offered other "cooler" helmet lines but the leedom helmet is the best, period.
post #9 of 18
I recall reading somewhere that the biggest piece-of-the-pie of the cost of a helmet was the manufacturer covering his costs of anticipated insurance claims, soft of an escrow thing (maybe this was for an industry other than skiing, don't recall exactly). Can anyone comment on that, ... did the CR writeup mention that?
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElkMountainSkier
I recall reading somewhere that the biggest piece-of-the-pie of the cost of a helmet was the manufacturer covering his costs of anticipated insurance claims, soft of an escrow thing (maybe this was for an industry other than skiing, don't recall exactly). Can anyone comment on that, ... did the CR writeup mention that?

That is usually the case.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElkMountainSkier
I recall reading somewhere that the biggest piece-of-the-pie of the cost of a helmet was the manufacturer covering his costs of anticipated insurance claims, soft of an escrow thing (maybe this was for an industry other than skiing, don't recall exactly). Can anyone comment on that, ... did the CR writeup mention that?
As I thought about this some more, I also read somewhere that the quality of the helmet is just as important as the quality of the insurance the manufacturer (marketer?) maintains -- or doesn't maintain). I think it said something like 'you're not just buying a helmet, if you look past the lawyers, legalities and settlement issues, you're also buying an insurance policy with the helmet'. So, these folks advocated researching the quality of the infrastructure the helmet supplier maintains. .

FWIW, I think I read all this in a context other than skiing, mountain biking or street motorcycles. If anyone with a legal background on here cares to comment, will be curious?
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by waxman


oh yeah, i am biased i sell leedom, been offered other "cooler" helmet lines but the leedom helmet is the best, period.
You biased..... come on!

Actually maybe it was ansi standard I was thinking of not snell. I don't recall CE being such a shoddy standard but maybe I'm reversing what I remember of the two standards. My guess is you're keeping more current on it than me these days.

BTW who makes the best skis in your unbiased opinion?
post #13 of 18
waxman:

I checked the Leedom Web site and the Snell Web site. Leedom snow sports helmets are not listed on the Snell site as approved. Neither do they claim approval on their Web site for the Scream model. Check these sites for yourself and see what you see (www.leedomhelmets.com and www.smf.org).
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 

What it says on the back of my Leedom Scream Helmet

The Leedom Scream Cut helmet I just purchaed - from SierraTrading, btw, and it turns out that it was a previous year model/closeout, the 2003 model - although from everything I can tell there is/are virtually NO differences in this model from year to year - there is a STICKER affixed to the back of the Helmet saying:

CERTIFIED BY SNELL MEORMIAL FOUNDATION
There's a big green ID number - RS98
And also a serial number which starts with RS and then has 6 numbers after it.

Is it possible that previous year Leedom Screams were certified by Snell - but the present year's aren't?

I wonder if anyone from Leedom would answer that question ? (I bet they would.)

And, to be completely honest, this particular helmet is ridiculously COMFORTABLE - which, for me, is a huge factor ... i.e. if it's comfortable, that makes me want to wear it.

Miguel
post #15 of 18
I got the Sierra Trading Post Winter Sports 2004 catalog today, which has three Leedom helmets shown, all which say Snell RS-98 certified. They are "closeouts", which probably means last year's models. Which would not be a problem for me.

The Snell website: www.smf.org, shows the stickers that are on certified helmets (click on "Certified Helmets"). If your helmet has the RS-98 sticker, then it is certified. And you got it for a good price too!

If you access the Leedom website (www.leedomhelmets.com) and click on "About Leedom" you can send them an email.
post #16 of 18
I believe the only commercially available ski helmet capable of multiple impact use in the US is the W Ski helmet (from Team Wendy). They use a proprietary foam liner (Zorbium) that absorbs impact energy over a wider range of impact speeds compared to expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) which is used in most of the other helmets out in the marketplace. EPS resembles a slightly denser version of a styrofoam cooler. Zorbium foam reminds me of the foam inside football or motorcycle helmets. They are supposed to be particularly effective in dispersing potential concussion-causing impact forces caused from lower speed impact collisions. EPS does almost nothing in lower speed impact collisions.

I use the W Ski because I didn't want to throw away a new-looking helmet after a bad crash (once you cracked an EPS helmet, it is useless) and because I believe the helmet does do a better job compared to other helmet designs in protecting against brain-damaging impact energies caused at a wide range of speeds. It also has an awesome active ventilation system (no silly plugs to worry about).

However, it is heavier than the typical shell-molded EPS helmet and I've noticed it doesn't fit a wide range of head shapes all that well. A safe helmet is one that fits snug and properly. It is also UGLY. Perhaps the ugliest looking 3/4 ski helmet ever made. It think it is mainly because of the copious amount of foam padding they use. The helmet sits pretty high on top of one's head.

If the W Ski fits your head, I don't think there is a "safer" helmet out on the market. In fact, I think Team Wendy has taken part in designing helmets for US Navy jet fighter pilots using their Zorbium foam technology.
post #17 of 18
Ack. Sorry, but that Dec 2003 Consumer Reports rated the W Helmets W Ski w/Slider as not recommended because they failed the retention tests, which involved

Quote:
chilling the helmets to between 0 and 9 degrees F.Using a rig that meets \ASTM specifications, we jerked the straps hard,. In the W Helmets W Ski w/Slider, the plastic ring connecting the chin strap and helmet broke on 3 of 13 helmets. ... That's unfortunate, since that model was the only one we tested to earn a score of excellent in our impact tests and could withstand multiple major impacts in the same spot.
CR also says that most helmets can be replaced at a discount after damage in a crash - the discount offered, if any, varies according to manufacturer.

On the other hand (head?), when I'm skiing, it's not between 0 - 9 degrees, so who knows?
post #18 of 18
I saw a print out in a local ski shop from this website, www.skihelmets.com.

They have reviews, from some 'official source', and also consumer reviews. Also some interesting titled articles. The last model year reviewed appears to be 2003, (news section was updated last month, Dec 2004). Maybe some interesting reading, has anyone dug into this yet?
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