Quantifying the Effect of Helmet Fit on Performance

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Virginia Tech


Fit is often pointed to as the most important factor to consider when selecting a helmet. However, there is no published biomechanical evidence suggesting that of helmet fit effects concussion risk. The objectives of this study were to quantify helmet fit on a headform and to determine the effect fit has on helmet performance. An impact pendulum was used to strike a helmeted NOCSAE headform mounted on a Hybrid III neck. Helmets were impacted at 4 locations at 3 energies representing a range of concussive to sub-concussive impacts. The fit conditions evaluated in this study represent fitting scenarios in which an athlete is provided a helmet that is properly or improperly sized and cases in which a properly sized helmet is too loose, too tight, or properly adjusted. A custom pressure sensor was developed and used to characterize helmet fit in each condition with a quantitative fit metric representative of a variation from zero pressure on the headform. All helmets produced significant differences in both peak linear and peak angular acceleration due to fit. Differences were generally small with some exceptions. Furthermore, air bladder inflation generated significant differences in both peak linear and peak angular acceleration, but these were generally small in magnitude. While fit associated with size and air bladder inflation significantly affected linear and rotational head acceleration for most impact conditions, the best fit condition did not always generate the lowest accelerations. Differences can be attributed to varying helmet characteristics between and within helmet models.



biomechanics, football, concussion, brain injury, linear, rotational, acceleration