The USPA Safety Committee has recommended and the USPA Board of Governors has approved USPA funding for a polo helmet study designed by Dr. Steve Rowson of Virginia Tech. The study will be conducted by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. The study will evaluate the ability of various polo helmets to reduce rotational acceleration, a factor that polo helmet testing methods do not account for currently. Planned on an expeditious timeline, the study is scheduled to be completed within three months.
The study will compare the impact performance of thirteen different polo helmet models that are currently on the market, including NOCSAE-certified helmets and other polo helmets with MIPS or other rotational-limiting technologies, under varying conditions using a system like the one being used in the Equine STAR Helmet Project. The STAR project is an ongoing study of rotational acceleration reduction in helmets that are used in three other equestrian disciplines: jumping, dressage and eventing.
Dr. Rowson recommended against including polo helmets in the third phase of the Equine STAR Helmet Project for three reasons: (1) polo helmets, which, unlike other equestrian helmets, have a prominent wide brim, would need to be modified in order to be tested on the instruments being used in the STAR Project, which would undermine the meaningfulness of any testing results; (2) the STAR Project is specifically testing helmets for impacts that are most likely in falls that predominate in jumping, eventing and dressage; and (3) the STAR Project is specifically testing helmets for impacts that are most likely in falls on surfaces used in jumping, eventing, and dressage (i.e., dirt and sand), not the surfaces used in polo(i.e., dirt/sand for arena polo and grass for outdoor polo).
The Rowson-designed Virginia Tech study, which will include testing at the outside loci of the range of impacts that could occur in polo, will be specifically tailored to polo helmets. The helmets that will be included in the study include:
Armis – Armis DUO
Armis – Armis Edge
Armis – Armis Vera
Casablanca – Casablanca NEU
Charles Owen – Palermo II Polo
Charles Owen – Polo Edition
Charles Owen – Young Rider Polo
Charles Owen – Sovereign
GPA – Speed Air 2X POLO 2X
Instinct Polo – Instinct Mk1 PAS015:2011 BSI Kitemark
Instinct Polo – Askari
KEP – Italia Cromo
La Martina – Windsor
The study will use three different systems to simulate head impacts and observe the results: the NOCSAE drop tower, the impact pendulum and the oblique drop tower. The first of these three systems will be used to understand baseline values and will only measure linear acceleration. The second system will use an impact pendulum to strike a helmeted NOCSAE headform, intended to measure linear and rotational acceleration for impact forces directed into the head. The third system will simulate a fall, measuring linear and rotational acceleration for impact forces applied at oblique angles.
Three helmet samples will be used for each of the thirteen models, one dedicated to each testing system. Each sample will be impacted four times, which includes two impact locations and two impact speeds, making for a total of 156 tests to be performed. A summary report and processed data will be provided to the USPA Safety Committee after the study. Virginia Tech will also publish a journal paper on the findings.
This study is intended to give the USPA and its members updated helmet safety information in a short time frame. The USPA Safety Committee is committed to its mission and looks forward to sharing the study’s results with the USPA membership as they become available.