I’m seeing a lot of media attention around the work of Drs. Stefan Duma and Steven Rowson of Virginia Tech. They have a study coming out in the journal Annals of Biomechanical Engineering which tested 32 hockey helmets on their ability to reduce concussion risk. The authors have also developed something known as the STAR rating system for hockey helmets and maintain a website that shows how the helmets performed. The star system ranges from 0 stars (not recommended for use) to 5 stars (best available).
ESPN has a great write up http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/12564082/virginia-tech-study-hockey-helmets-finds-many-unsafe and includes a video which shows their talk with Dr. Duma about his research, and with Bauer Hockey to get their response on the findings. Virginia Tech also has a write-up which describes the project https://www.vt.edu/spotlight/impact/2015-03-30-hockey/ratings.html. For those interested, the hockey helmet rating site can be found here http://www.beam.vt.edu/helmet/helmets_hockey.php.
I haven’t had a chance to read the full study at this point, but a few things from their findings certainly stand out for me. First is that the top rated helmet, the Warrior Krown 360, received 3 stars. It is the only three star helmet (3 stars rates “good”) among the 32 helmets. This is not a great finding for hockey helmets. The authors have a similar website for football helmets and they list numerous football helmets with 4 and 5 star ratings. As well, 9 of the hockey helmets were deemed 0 stars and so were not recommended at all. For parents with kids in minor hockey (or those considering putting their kids in the sport) the poor performance of hockey helmets certainly won’t add to the allure of the game!
A second thing that stands out is how poor the CCM Resistance and Bauer Re-Akt 100 helmets perform relative to cheaper helmets within their own brand! My oldest son has the CCM Resistance (and previously had the Bauer Re-Akt). These helmets have been marketed based on them being the latest and greatest in protecting the head (with a price tag to match). So seeing their lesser (and cheaper) helmets perform better (at least according to the metrics used in this particular research) will be sure to raise some eyebrows of those that purchased the more expensive helmets. For instance the Bauer 2100, which is listed as US$34.99, ranks better than the Bauer Re-Akt 100, which is US$269.99. I am very interested to hear how companies like Bauer and CCM respond to this study (My understanding is the CCM Resistance helmet was designed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Ottawa, and so I especially await their response).
Lastly, as a hockey parent, I am always happy to see people working in this area. As a researcher I look forward to reading the academic paper to get a better sense of their research design, and I hope to learn more from the work that follows that builds on or critiques the work of Drs. Duma and Rowson.