For a long time now this thought has been nagging at me and recent events have served only to bring it to the front of my mind.
I’m talking about sticking stuff on our crash helmets, more particularly the kind of appendages riders sport to capture their escapades in glorious technicolor. It’s possible you might end up seeing the wrong kind of colour entirely.
In recent years more and more mountain bike riders, skiers and sports enthusiasts have had the luxury – via GoPro, Sony, Muvi and others – to mount high definition movie cameras to their crash helmets and record their activities. Not only that, but many of us fix high power lights on to our helmets to up the ante and take our sports into the wilds at night. The problem is, I’m not sure the helmet manufacturers design and test their helmets to be safe with that kind of mount involved.
Most crash helmets consist primarily of air, with lots of vents and the space between them filled with expanded polystyrene (sort of air in a honeycomb lattice). There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact they are designed to specific safety standards. The key point is that in the unfortunate event of the helmet being asked to do it’s job, the force of the impact is supposed to spread across the helmet, rather than let the force penetrate into the skull at any particular point. Quite often the helmet breaks in the process but the user’s head hopefully does not.
Now think of what could happen with a relatively hard, relatively large lump fixed securely to one point on the helmet. It seems to me that a blow on that spot could end up with the helmet behaving completely counter to what the helmet manufacturer intends, with the force being channeled directly – and disastrously – into the user’s head.
Not only that, but the protrusion of the camera/light mount may also serve as a snag to the head and neck in the event of a heavy impact which could also have negative consequences.
These thoughts were brought to mind most recently on hearing that Michael Schumacher was wearing a camera mounted to his helmet when he crashed on that ski slope on Meribel with what was reported to be a piledriver kind of vertical impact.
I hasten to add that I’m not suggesting the helmet manufacturer or the camera manufacturer are in any way negligent, in fact without any helmet he would reportedly have been killed outright. I’m just saying that it’s possible that in general a combination of the helmet and camera in a particular way may make head injuries worse than they might otherwise be, and that we’ve not given enough attention to what we are putting on our heads.
I’m a bit hypocritical here. I ride off-road at night and put a light on my crash helmet. I’ve been known to snag it on low branches and there’s always the chance of a crash. I could also be conflating things I know little about.
But perhaps it’s time for manufacturers to review how these things are mounted, perhaps with some method that allows them to shear off in glancing impacts or spread the impact load, or for helmet and camera/light manufacturers to develop some kind of standard to mitigate some of these issues? At the very least it’s an area that could do with some research to see just how great the risk might be.
Personally, if I find myself trying to film my activities in the future I’d rather see the camera fitted to my bike or somewhere on my body other than my head.