first published in the October 2022 Equiery

Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab presented its findings on equestrian helmets at the Equestrian Symposium, held August 11-12 in Blacksburg, VA. During the presentation, Drs. Steve Rowson, Stefan Duma, Mark Begonia and Barry Miller educated stakeholders on the progress of their research and the upcoming STAR Helmet Ratings system, set to be released to the public by the end of this year.
The Helmet Lab began its research nearly four years ago and was able to finish with the support of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, U.S. Eventing Association, and a private donation by Jacqueline Mars. More than $425,000 in research funds were raised in 2020.

The Helmet Lab evaluated 26 helmet models and 104 helmets in 312 tests with quantifying elements like actual drop height, what body parts are impacted when falling, linear and rotational impacts, and surface types, among other factors. They started with watching video analysis of 100 equestrian falls to then create laboratory system comparisons, on-site field testing, and impact surface comparisons.

The research resulted in the creation of the STAR Helmet Ratings, which will help guide equestrians in choosing which helmet to use for which disciplines. The ratings system will fill also in the gaps in existing helmet certifications as they relate to concussion prevention. The Helmet Lab hopes the results will also educate manufacturers on how to improve the safety of their helmets.

To read more about the Helmet Lab, visit: