The Helmet Update
Volume 38, #6, January 14, 2020
Helmets for 2020: highlights, trends
Summary: Helmets are rapidly evolving as concussion concerns rise and consumers at last find new technology. The effectiveness of new designs remains to be proven, but we are encouraged that manufacturers find it necessary to have at least a marketing story on concussion reduction.
Football's concussion crisis has made consumers aware that even a single concussion is a far more serious injury than had been thought, with long-term consequences that have not always been identified in clinical settings. Reduction of the basic impact in a crash is probably the most important way to avoid any brain injury, since there is always stretching and tearing of brain tissue. But rotational force has also been identified as a causative factor, and the new tech we are seeing in helmets focuses on that in part because it is difficult to market thicker bicycle helmets with softer liners to reduce linear impact. That has been part of the solution for football. Every manufacturer we spoke to at Eurobike this fall had new rotational force reduction technology in their models or was desperately searching for a credible new technology to add.
The Bell/Giro marketing blitz for MIPS moved that design into the mainstream several years ago even though the Snell Foundation's testing found no benefit from it. Others had already been marketing similar systems, including 6D, Kali and Leatt using elastomer pads that can move sideways. For 2020 there are many more: Bontrager has an inner liner of a material called WaveCel, a plastic mesh that collapses on impact and can slip sideways while doing so. Others with rotational management technology already include 100 Per Cent, Airium, Briko, Fly, Fox and O'Neal. Many more are adopting MIPS or searching for an alternative that does not include paying the MIPS licensing fees. And Bell/Giro brought back a POC concept with "ball-and-socket" designs featuring an outer and inner layer with MIPS slippery material in between.
There is probably no harm in buying any of the new designs, and in some cases they may even help you avoid injury. But we still recommend keeping your eye out for a model that fits you well, has good coverage and has a thicker, less dense liner, no matter what type of rotational force reduction technology it may have.
We have much more on new designs and old ones on our Helmets for the current season page.
One startling new technique is 3D printing of custom helmets shaped for individual heads, pioneered in football by Riddell and in bicycle helmets by the UK company HEXR. The possibilities are endless and could be the future of high-end helmet manufacturing.
This page was revised on: October 23, 2020.