From USPA Safety Committee Chair Dr. Thor Norregaard:
The USPA Safety Committee remains focused on continuing to improve the safety of our players. I am particularly pleased by the mandate approved by the USPA Board of Governors at the 2017 USPA Board of Governors and Annual Member Meeting in which all players at USPA events will be required to wear a National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) Polo Standard certified helmet. This mandate will take effect June 1, 2019.
Contrary to other sports, including equestrian disciplines, we in the polo community have not required that protective helmets comply with any standard, leaving our players with little guidance when acquiring a helmet, as well as ignoring safety concerns including concussion, traumatic brain injury and even death.
There are several helmet standards based both in the U.S. and overseas. However, the NOCSAE Polo helmet safety standard was generated with particular attention to polo; which includes testing simulated falls from the height of the head of a mounted player. The standard also includes a retention system so the helmet stays appropriately on the head of the player in the event of a fall. Additionally, the shell must be sturdy enough to support a face mask used for eye protection. The standard takes into consideration several impacts to the same helmet. For a manufacturer to obtain a NOCSAE certification, the manufacturer also has to accept ongoing inspection of the production line, thereby ensuring the helmets continue to meet the standard. The specifics of the standard can be seen at http://nocsae.org/standards/polo/.
The NOCSAE Polo standard is a rigorous standard, which is what makes it assuredly safe. Currently there is not a NOCSAE Polo certified helmet on the market. The Casablanca C6 and Polo Gear Extreme did however pass in the past, but are currently not on the market.
Through this mandate, the USPA expects to generate a market that will incentivize manufacturers to bring a NOCSAE compliant polo helmet to market. The Hurlingham Polo Association is also mandating the use of a helmet that complies by the standards accepted by the British Horseracing Authority, beginning on January 1, 2018. A NOCSAE Polo certified helmet will comply with these standards thereby increasing the market. In addition, the USPA is offering two grants to manufacturers who bring a NOCSAE Polo certified helmet to the market.
In the meantime, the USPA continues to test several helmets against the NOCSAE Polo standard, as well as the ASTM 1163 standard.
The ASTM 1163 is used in a number of equestrian disciplines; however, a polo helmet must endure more rigorous testing to keep up with the pace and speed of this game.
Please see comparison below:
ASTM F1163 equestrian standard:
- Force transferred through the helmet during an impact must remain below 300 g’s.
- Helmets that comply with ASTM F1163 are typically capable of managing a single high magnitude impact.
NOCSAE Polo Helmet standard:
- Requires that the transferred force be below a Severity Index of 1200 (approximately 200 g’s).
- NOCSAE standard (in contrast to ASTM standard) requires management of multiple high magnitude impacts as well as low energy impacts.
***Scientific research has demonstrated that the risk of skull fracture and serious head injury increases dramatically once the head experiences linear acceleration forces that exceed 300 g’s.