Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

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Pindadio
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Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Pindadio »

Hi all

I'm doing a research study into the safety of kayak & Ski helmets and how they compare to motorbike helmets, which are at the forefront of helmet technology.

There's been a lot of discussion about what kayaking helmets have to withstand in terms of shock absorption. Based on my research into the standard, a helmet, with a 6kg weight inside, has to withstand a drop of between 2.1 & 3.1 m/s (depending on the size of the helmet) onto an anvil. The headform within the helmet must not experience a deceleration of more than 250g, or 15J of energy.

In the event of a head impact, the emphasis should surely be on keeping the user conscious, decreasing the amount of deceleration experienced by the user.

A strong point about the standard is the reason for these impact speeds being used in the tests, which is quoted as follows:

'Under these circumstances it is extremely unlikely that the speed of impact will be greater than 18 km/h (5 m/s) because this is the highest recorded rate of flow in a white water river.'

Bearing in mind that this standard is rated for grade 4, it is safe to say that the water in which these helmets are being used can be greater than 5 m/s.

I wanted to get some thoughts and ideas about what you would like to come from this, a more transparent view of the helmet industry? A rating system for helmets similar to the SHARP system for motorbike helmets? etc.

Regards

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davebrads
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by davebrads »

Pindadio wrote:'Under these circumstances it is extremely unlikely that the speed of impact will be greater than 18 km/h (5 m/s) because this is the highest recorded rate of flow in a white water river.'

Bearing in mind that this standard is rated for grade 4, it is safe to say that the water in which these helmets are being used can be greater than 5 m/s.
I would have thought the standards committee would have had some concrete data to base their statement upon. I'm not saying that I don't think it is suspect, but what makes you say that grade 4 white water can exceed 5 m/s?
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StillNewish
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by StillNewish »

It would be interesting to see comparison of the performance of currently available kit under controlled, known, conditions.

Obviously a £27 helmet isn't going to perform as well as a £180 helmet, but how good are they both?

Has anyone done any reviews involving (probably destructive) testing?

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Teaman »

StillNewish wrote:It would be interesting to see comparison of the performance of currently available kit under controlled, known, conditions.

Obviously a £27 helmet isn't going to perform as well as a £180 helmet, but how good are they both?

Has anyone done any reviews involving (probably destructive) testing?
this statement is true but in reality is the 180 helmet really worth 180 when a 100 pound helmet will do the job perfectly. eg the shred ready full face one vrs the sweet rocker full face at 300 quid. also the wrsi full face at £130
ok the sweet wins on looks but in my opinion its more bells n whistles for most of us.

I have a WRSI currrent helmet @ £67 ish and a £17 no name helmet identical to ruk, osprey, yak and protec which leads me to believe the bottom end helmets are more name than lid.
Both of my helmets have been tested due to going over in low fast water and just headbutting the bottom

im happy with my wrsi I guess up to grade 4 and if I know the river has lots of knarly rocks Ill go full face. but which one fits
doesn't matter if its the most expensive. if it isnt a good fit it will do more harm than anything else.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Dave Manby »

Many years ago when Geoff Good was still alive and running the coaching committee of the BCU he was responsible for setting up the BCU Safety working party (It became a committee and I am nominally chair of this committee). Anyway I digress, whilst Geoff was around he sent a selection of helmets off to the Road Research Lab who tested some of the helmets. Given this was back in the day when ACE helmets were the norm the results were "so low it was hard to rely on the data given as the readings were at the limit of the scale" In fact they refused to test some makes as they though they were so weak the lack of resistance would cause damage to the testing machine. Protec were the top of the range helmets back then.

There was a call to "ban" ACE helmets "because they felt flimsy". Quite how this would have been done was not apparent - there being no standard for whitewater helmets which ACE could fail. There still isn't a standard for white water helmets (that I know of). The standard is for "head protection" so building site helmets and the like are judged on the same standard. Imagine wearing a proper helmet for slalom! Geoff was very good at watching the regulations and making sure that he submitted observations to the relevant committees. Other bits he saw coming: it would have been illegal to sell drysuits as we know them, they were nearly classed as full immersion suits and as such would have needed a water activated light, a hood, and other stuff not relevant to paddling. Robin Witter who was the manufacturer of ACE helmets (which were a copy of the the East German Wilde helmets) pointed out that there was no evidence of any injury that an ACE helmet wearer would have not suffered it the wearer had worn a different brand. He pointed out that at the recent World Slalom and Downriver championships 95% of the paddlers were wearing ACE helmets. He had a point and still has I think.

The fact that cradle helmets are better than foam helmets is ignored by paddlers - but foam helmets are a lot warmer!

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Chalky723 »

It's the "Arai" debate all over again.

Someone that has just spent £450 on a helmet is always going to tell you it's better than your £99 one & I think there is an element of that with the kayak helmets too. When the SHARPS testing pointed out that a £60 Caberg graded better than some Arai's it just led to owners of those helmets deciding that the test was at fault...

Shred Ready are good, solid helmets & TBH the main difference between my old Shred & my current Sweet is the inside - just a smidge comfier. Plus, I got the Sweet at sale price - would never pay full whack for one....

I'm not sure how effective regulating helmets for recreational use would be anyway given that you could paddle round with a flowerpot on your head if you liked........

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Pindadio
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Pindadio »

Ok so as points:

My '5 m/s' statement stems from intuition; I don't have any data yet, that will be gotten over the next few months of the study, accelerometers will be taken down various runs.
Dave Manby wrote:there being no standard for whitewater helmets which ACE could fail. There still isn't a standard for white water helmets (that I know of).
http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/ ... 0030244585

I have access to this standard by which all kayaking helmets sold in the EU are judged.

I plan on doing some destructive testing to see which helmet gives the best level of protection.
Last edited by Pindadio on Thu Feb 19, 2015 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by stevenb »

On another point Im looking at a ski helmet. The sweet rambler kids size is identical in EVERY way to the sweet wanderer, apart from the front vent is metal on one and plastic on the other the inside and every other part is identical.

The sizes are the same as well with S/M and M/L being the exact same dimensions but the kids snowboarding helmet is £66 the same in the wanderer is £116. There has to be some difference but ive held them together and they are identical. The only thing i can find is the fact one is CE stamped to a ski/snow legislation number and they have put a different No for kayaking.

Im sure there are many other examples where they are the same helmet but with a different name and branded for a different sport yet made in the same factory next to each other out of the same internal parts.

I wouldn't however use my climbing helmet for canoeing as these are to prevent different types of knocks.

Steve

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Adrian Cooper »

Dave Manby wrote:Robin Witter who was the manufacturer of ACE helmets (which were a copy of the the East German Wilde helmets) pointed out that there was no evidence of any injury that an ACE helmet wearer would have not suffered it the wearer had worn a different brand. He pointed out that at the recent World Slalom and Downriver championships 95% of the paddlers were wearing ACE helmets. He had a point and still has I think.
He may well have a point but using the world championships as an example is probably a little disingenuous. Presumably these are highly skilled paddlers who rarely fall over. It would be interesting to see if those same paddlers used the same helmets when descending gnarly Alpine ditches.

Pindadio
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Pindadio »

According to the standards governing both, Ski helmets have to be below 250g in a 5 m/s test, kayaking helmets have to be below 250g in a 2-3 m/s test (depending on size), so one could get from this that ski helmets offer more protection.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Chalky723 »

stevenb wrote:On another point Im looking at a ski helmet.
My new helmet is a Sweet Trooper. It was on sale at the price of a Wanderer but is of Rocker quality.

If you search on here you'll find discussions about this & the fact that the snowboarding ones are equal to the kayaking ones.
Pindadio wrote:My '5 m/s' statement stems from intuition; I don't have any data yet, that will be gotten over the next few months of the study, accelerometers will be taken down various runs.
It's nowhere near as cut & dried as "the river is 10mph therefore the impact is at 10mph" - many times the kayak hits the obstacle & slows down, when the kayaker falls into the water they're not moving at anywhere near the speed of the water. And once they're in the water, the head is mostly out of it & away from the obstacles.

Another point to "measure" would be how many times the head actually comes into contact with rocks at the speed of the water.

The accelerometer might let you measure the "whiplash" effect though.....

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Jim »

Many many considerations.

Big waterfalls where you reach high speed and may impact rock directly before passing through water (which will decelerate you some) almost certainly exceed current test standards. Few us do that kind of paddling though.

The motorcycling comparison is an awkward one, all the helmets meet the standards, I think there is some choice but I always go for ACCU gold, so in terms of meeting the requirements a £60 helmet does it as well as a £300 helmet, but it is heavier and nowhere near as well ventilated or as comfortable to wear, or as fashionable. Some of the £300 helmets might exceed the standard by a bigger margin than the £60 ones, but there is no way to know this for sure, the extra £240 might be all about style and brand name.

I reckon for normal grade 4 paddling the current standard is fine, I reckon for grade 5 rapids it is probably fine, but if you are a waterfall specialist you probably want to be looking at something designed with higher impacts in mind - but you don't have any standard to guide you, just manufacturers claims.

I put the most significant scratch ever in my WW comp helmet on something the other day (was the Allt a Chaorainn or the Upper Roy?) - I didn't even feel the impact that caused it, I did the first part of Ecstasy upside down in my Ocoee and swam out without a scratch, it was the grade 2 bit on the Roy that bruised my leg!

If you are seriously proposing to revise the standards for canoeing and kayaking helmets, I beleive you need to make a real distinction between ordinary river running and extreme river running, because I do accept that the impacts can be bigger, but it affects only a very small percentage of us.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by TechnoEngineer »

StillNewish wrote:It would be interesting to see comparison of the performance of currently available kit under controlled, known, conditions.

Obviously a £27 helmet isn't going to perform as well as a £180 helmet, but how good are they both?

Has anyone done any reviews involving (probably destructive) testing?
I used to use an Ainsworth "Skid Lid" until I closely inspected the bedrock approaching Bala Mill Falls, whacking my temple. The helmet did its job although I was "seeing stars" for a few hours afterwards. It was at that point I decided to get a helmet with better padding, and wouldn't go near the Tryweryn until I'd done so. Eventually I got a Sweet Rocker.
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Chalky723 »

Apparently you'd be hard pressed to beat the plastic "centre" type helmets that use a cradle to separate your head from the outside of the helmet (as do most building site helmets) - but we all like foam to keep our heads warm & damn the fact that it transmits more of the impact to our skulls!

Plus, they just don't look cooooooool.....

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by bogmonster_returns »

Two basic questions in relation to whether the helmet is fit for purpose:
1) What type of kayaking incident is a helmet designed to protect you from?
2) How can we reflect this type of incident in a test environment?

BS EN 1385 includes various tests to try and account for different incident types. As someone has already pointed out, the idea of speed of impact being related to water speed is not valid. But without defining the incident type we’re interested in, we can’t design a test to mimic it. In defence of the BS EN it does pretty much say this; it’s for helmets on class 1-4 water (i.e. not class 5 drops directly onto rocks). And it recognises that most fatalities are from drowning after concussion, and not from impact. And many people will buy a "really good" helmet because it looks cool, even if it is completely out of proportion to their paddling; it's a fashion statment.

Other variables that are interesting to think about:
Straps: Lots of people wear them very loose. This compromises performance in a situation of multiple impacts (e.g. prolonged duration underwater whilst setting up for a roll, or in the case of a semi-conscious swim). To quote BS EN “the chinstrap should be under tension at all times”.

Peaks: good or bad? Possibly a fashion thing. Does it protect your face from rocks or does it cause the helmet to get levered off during impact? Depends on the direction of impact…

Ear protection: ears are massively vulnerable to cuts and tears. Also vulnerable to direct impacts causing temporary or permanent deafness. Despite this, there isn’t anything in the kayaking standard requiring ear protection.

Bucket effect: Have heard this concern in the US; if the helmet doesn’t drain easily, the 6kg head becomes considerably heavier, and this increases risk of neck injury considerably (e.g. in an unconscious paddler). The relationship between what you're wearing on your head and its relationship to neck injury is not a simple one.

The main issue I have with BS EN is that it’s a pass/fail minimum standard. Stop and think about that; many of us are wearing helmets that are as bad as they could possibly be allowed to be without the manufacturer being prosecuted. The lack of gradation is a problem for manufacturers too; when a manufacturer claims their helmet is better, in order to justify a higher price tag, there’s not much the consumer can do to verify this. High end helmets have more ‘features’, but if you ask the manufacturer what the evidence is for the benefits of these features, they can’t tell you. It’s dumb; it would be in the manufacturer’s interest to publish any evidence they have in relation to any additional safety features they have beyond the BS EN, but in practice they’re simply adding features without any evidence they’re useful. It is possible that these additional features are added on the basis of experience, or a hunch, or an insight from another sport, but nothing sufficiently strong as to constitute evidence they’ve got the courage to publish.

The answer, obviously, is an aspirational standard as opposed to the bare minimum approach we have at the moment. As the original poster said, we have this for motorcycle helmets already.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Kelvin »

By far the hardest impacts I've suffered have been while being window shaded in stoppers, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a strong stopper and test a dummy in a kayak to see what velocity a helmet reaches. On one occasion I was wearing the polycarbonate version of the ACE helmet and it displaced far enough for the edge of a drain hole to cut my scalp. I have also seen stars with a couple of other helmets over the years.

I now value ear protection since I side slammed a rock and cracked my rear molar.

I don't believe the 250 g used in the standard is appropriate as it is based on a level likely to cause permanent brain damage but loss of consciousness would better reflect the risks.

I would like to see the G ratings achieved in the tests so protection levels could be evaluated without marketing hype.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by davedraperdesign »

For my final year Thesis I completed a project to design a helmet for WW Kayaking/Canoeing. The question you have posed is something which I looked at during this work.

As part of this exercise I spoke to BSI regarding their test methods for EN1385. My main concerns with the standard were regarding Clause 6.3 Retention system effectiveness... this test will allow up to 80mm of movement which will massively leave the forehead of the user exposed. How is this acceptable?. Also, I had concerns regarding the lack of testing for stability, field of view and weight (these were all excluded from the older version of the standard and may be in the 2012 version).

I also queried whether the standard would be reviewed to include glass 5 (+) water to which they confimed: Please be aware that this particular standard supports essential requirements of the EU Directive on Personal Protective Equipment, which has been implemented in the UK by national legislation. I can find no evidence to suggest that there will be a standard covering helmets for use in rivers of Classes 5 and 6.

In general the response I received from BSI was fairly generic.

In comparison I investigated other types of helmet standards which were more 'similar'. I think the comparison between a kayaking helmet and a motorcycle helmet is a bit too different! I looked at the standard for cycle helmets and also climbing helmets. The standard's contain many more representative tests than CE1385 for their respective activities.

One of the main differences between a kayaking helmet and motorcycle helmet is that a motorcycle helmet rarely sees numerous impacts during it's life whereas a kayak helmet may (although manufacturers state that if a helmet is hit then it should be replaced). A kayak helmet may see numerous light impacts during it's life which due to the differences in construction would 'write off' a motorcycle helmet!

If you would like the name of the contact at BSI please PM me. However, I would imagine you would likely get a similar 'generic' response.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by davedraperdesign »

I posted on here a few years ago asking for feedback... please have a look as there were some interesting points raised:

http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... gn#p430550

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by DaveBland »

I have to say I think the argument is all a little academic.
There's not visibly an issue of loads of head injuries generally in kayaking? Given it's a pretty head banging likely sport, you'd think there would be many.

With helmets there's a balance between weight, visibility and general dumbing of the senses needed on the river. Full facers as helmets make far more sense than 'normal' ones, but most don't use them. I suspect it's because they reduce the senses and make a need to use them more likely.

My Sweet, took a repeated hammering during a bit of a flip at the base of a fall last season. It seemed to do its job pretty well. I was dazed but got away with it. The helmet is still serviceable, but I have replaced it in case.

Ypu'll never account for all impacts, but in reality, how many helmet fails are there?
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by MehNameisSam »

I started paddling about 2 years ago and I used a ShredReady Standard, I took a few knocks but nothing major, however, I noticed that even a branch springing back would daze me and if I did happen to go over and hit a rock it wouldn't so much hurt but it would ache for a while but as I said it never really hurt.

I was lucky enough to get a Sweet Rocker for Christmas and I've got to be honest it does handle blows to the head a lot better. I've found myself a few times scraping my head of the river bed while wearing it and I never really noticed a difference between the two, but I have took 2 decent blows to the head with it and it did seem to deal with the impact better then the ShredReady, I think that if I was wearing the ShredReady I would have felt it. :P

My opinion is if you find a helmet that is comfortable and offers the correct amount of protection for what you want to paddle, use it if that so happens to be a Ski Helmet then fine. I know a few people that started paddling with BMX helmets.

I do still disagree with the BCU implying that helmets aren't essential if you are paddling flat water, you never know what's under you, even if it is a hard hat or a BMX helmet.
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by morsey »

Flat water doesn't require helmets.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by MehNameisSam »

morsey wrote:Flat water doesn't require helmets.
I see where you are coming from, but, you can still go over and you never know what's under you. To be fair the majority of people who are paddling flat water would be inexperienced paddlers out for their first time etc. and will have a higher chance of going over. The majority of people who have some experience under their belt will have more than likely moved on to a different area of the sport.
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by SimonMW »

I do still disagree with the BCU implying that helmets aren't essential if you are paddling flat water, you never know what's under you, even if it is a hard hat or a BMX helmet.
I agree. I've seen some pretty nasty old farming implements dumped into the River Severn in the flatwater sections before now.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by davebrads »

There are a huge number of experienced paddlers who regularly paddle flat water. Helmets aren't even always necessary on moving water; I don't see that paddling an open boat on most grade 2 without a helmet is taking excessive risk, and as for surfing my avatar shows where I stand.

I agree that wearing a helmet is the default for newbies, but once you have enough experience you can make you own judgement. Of course some people aren't good at assessing risk, but that swings both ways.
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Chalky723 »

MehNameisSam wrote:
morsey wrote:Flat water doesn't require helmets.
I see where you are coming from, but, you can still go over and you never know what's under you.
I think you may be getting a little too danger conscious there, unless we're messing around on weirs (gasp) we don't bother on flat water. Don't see many open boaters wearing helmets on the Broads etc.....

For long distance flat water paddles in the summer I'd go so far as to call someone stupid if they decided to wear a helmet instead of a hat that'd keep the sun off of them & help prevent heat stroke...

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by DaveBland »

Chalky723 wrote:"summer"
Such a subjective term. Generally means the rain's a bit less cold and the perpetual drab is a bit less gloomy.
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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by jmmoxon »

The only serious head injuries I know of whilst wearing a helmet canoeing have been due to poor fit or coverage of the head, as the impact occurred around the edges of the helmet. Motorbikes, cycling, climbing & skiing have all seen impacts that have gone through badly designed helmets due to the greater speed / likely impact forces.

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by Chalky723 »

DaveBland wrote:
Chalky723 wrote:"summer"
Such a subjective term. Generally means the rain's a bit less cold and the perpetual drab is a bit less gloomy.
I'm sure we get at least one day of sun (struggles to remember).....

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by morsey »

Chalky723 wrote:
DaveBland wrote:
Chalky723 wrote:"summer"
Such a subjective term. Generally means the rain's a bit less cold and the perpetual drab is a bit less gloomy.
I'm sure we get at least one day of sun (struggles to remember).....
Today on the Upper Dart, Boom!

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Re: Are kayaking helmets fit for purpose?

Post by DaveBland »

I love a timely photo! Very nice.
But Summer in Feb. Wow the world is messed up.
It's +13 degrees here and literally in shorts and flipflops.
dave

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