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Old 06-15-2007, 08:52 PM   #1
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HELMET BUYING GUIDE - How Much is Your Noggin Worth?

Since I've been a part of the FF Community, I've noticed a fair amount of questions regarding purchasing a helmet. Which one to buy, how much should I spend and so forth...

I came across this article that does a really good job of explaining how you should make your selection.

These are the experts (not me) opinions...

How much is your head worth? The answer should be simple - PRICELESS.

However, just because you spend nearly a thousand dollars on a helmet, if it doesn’t fit properly, you’ve compromised your safety. Just like tires, there’s more to tires than being ‘round and black’, there’s more to helmets than being open-faced or full-face.

Let’s start with the basics. According to the SCCA 2007 guidelines, the minimum safety requirements and certifications are spelled out clearly. ‘Crash helmets approved by the Snell Foundation with a Snell sticker 2000 or later Special Application (SA2000), or by the SFI with a rating of 31.1a for open-faced helmets and an SFI sticker 31.2a for closed faced (if purchased prior to 12/31/04) or by the FIA standard 8860-2004. All of which are noted on the sticker located inside the helmet liner.

These standards are based on the theory that the head can briefly withstand forces of 300g. In his book Motorsports Medicine, Dr. Harlen Hunter describes what happens to your skull and your brain during impacts.

‘The seriousness of head injuries depends upon head movements during impacts or decelerations, the duration of an incident and the total g Forces experienced. When the head is contacted directly, shock waves can be passed to the brain directly through the skull, which may or may not fracture. Shock waves can be passed to the brain tissue and even rebound off of the skull and pass through the brain several times. Distortion of the skull can cause fractures at locations other than the point of contact. Skull fractures may or may not be accompanied by brain injuries.”

Keep in mind that the GCR is only stating the MINIMUM safety standards and they don’t directly address a key point – proper helmet fit.

According to the Snell Foundation, “Helmets are normally comprised of four elements:

- Rigid outer shell
- Crushable liner
- Chin strap(s)
- Comfort padding

The rigid outer shell adds load spreading capability and prevents objects from penetrating the helmet. It’s kind of an additional skull. The liner, usually made of Styrofoam, absorbs the energy of an impact by crushing. The chin strap, when properly buckled and adjusted, helps the helmet remain in position during a crash.

Helmets work kind of like a brake or a shock absorber. During a crash, the head is traveling at a certain speed. Since the head has weight, and is moving, there is a certain amount of energy associated with a head in motion…In short, everything slows down really quickly. A helmet will effectively reduce the speed of the head by breaking and crushing which reduces the amount of energy transferred to the brain. The whole process takes only milliseconds to turn a potentially lethal blow into a survivable one.

So, understanding how helmets work, which one do I chose?

There are a few steps in determining what is right for you as a driver:

1. What kind of racing are you participating? Road racing, drag racing, rally or oval track racing require a more robust level of protection.
2. Helmet weight. The higher g-force car you are racing, the more strain on your neck you will experience with a heavier helmet.
3. Helmet fit. What size do I choose? Most helmet manufacturers list helmets in inches, or centimeters. However, some use hat sizes or small, medium, large, and extra large. Still, all manufacturers recommend that you measure and obtain a number that corresponds to size. Try on a number of manufacturers since different brands will fit different heads.
a. It is important that the helmet FIT AS SNUG AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT CAUSING PAIN.
b. The best fit is determined by how the helmet fits around the crown of your head.
c. Check all axis of fit. Horizontal and side to side. If the helmet slides, go a size down.
d. The top of the eye-port padding should be just above your eyebrows.
e. Make sure that the cheek pads are in contact with your cheeks.
f. Check the pressure points. When you remove the helmet, look at the coloration of the skin. It should be slightly red (more if you are Irish) at the temples, cheeks and near the ears. If there is pain associated with removing the helmet, you may need to increase the size.

It has become increasingly popular for drivers to paint their helmets. When doing so, it is a good idea to send the newly painted helmet back to the manufacturer for inspection. Many of the solvents and chemicals used in painting can adversely affect the inner liner and comfort liners of helmets. This same inspection service should also be utilized if a helmet is dropped from a distance greater than 4 feet. Most manufacturers offer this service free of charge.

You know how much your head is worth. Just remember that a helmet is the most expensive piece of safety equipment that you hope you never have to use. It is a “one time use product”. Protect your brain. It is the only one you have.

FORMER Avenging Moderator of the Apocalypse and Leader of the Axis of Oversteer

"I live with fear every day and sometimes, she lets me race."

2002 SVT Focus... Stock
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