I once had a motorcycle death case where the rider was sustained traumatic brain injury from a low-speed impact with no helmet was worn by the rider. I went to talk to his neurosurgeon about motorcycle head injuries and whether a helmet would have prevented the brain damage. The neurosurgeon had a medical degree and a doctorate in brain biology. He had done many surgeries on brain injured motorcyclists. He told me something shocking but I suspected. He told me, “Attorney McGovern do you know the difference between a motorcyclist who crashes at 45 m.p.h. with a helmet and a motorcyclist that crashes at 45 m.p.h. without a helmet? I said no.
“The only difference is the motorcyclists with a helmet in a 45-m.p.h. crash is a prettier corpse.”
Then he showed me research papers on the mechanics of rotational acceleration. He explained helmets offered no protection whatsoever from the forces of rotational acceleration. I was stunned and did more research.
I found many papers confirming what the neurosurgeon told me about the lack of protection from rotational acceleration and angular kinetic energy impacts to the brain. Tests conducted by Dr. David C. Viano of the Bioengineering Center at Wayne State University concluded that a helmeted head sustained the same degree of angular acceleration as the un-helmeted head when subjected to identical impacts.
So, if angular acceleration is a major cause of concussion (or worse), how is the brain protected by conventional helmet design? It is a terrible situation but with respect to angular acceleration energy, it is not for most all helmet manufacturers. (See article at http://www.tulane.edu/PDF)
NOW THERE ARE HELMETS THAT OFFER SUCH BRAIN PROTECTION FROM ANGULAR ACCCELERATION
I have raced motocross and know well the problems with concussions and brain injury. If you ride fast and race over jumps, you are going to eventually crash. Crashes and blows to the head are all part of the game. Many a professional motocross racer with multiple concussions have retired early rather than suffer more permanent brain injuries.
But then came Bob Weber and his vision of more helmet protection for motocrossers. His company 6D came out with the first motocross helmet that protects a motocross rider’s brain from rotational acceleration and angular acceleration energy. 6D Helmets came out with a revolutionary helmet that does protect one from brain trauma from rotational acceleration.
Team Honda went to 6D helmets for its pro motocross team. I choose to use the 6D helmet for motocross. I had been lucky and destroyed three motocross helmets in high-speed crashes in World Veterans Motocross events at Glen Helen and Namur, Belgium—both very long, tough courses with exceptionally high jumps before I went to the 6D helmet. Luckily, I had blows to the top of my helmet and not on the sides where helmets offer no protection. I went to the 6D motocross helmet and will always use their helmets.
As a motorcycle jury trial attorney and MSF Basic Instructor I know the dangers of head injuries. I have had too many cases of motorcyclists with traumatic brain injuries from relatively low speed impacts of 20-40 m.p.h. Conventional D.O.T. and SNELL helmet standards are designed and only offer protection up to abut 11.5 m.p.h. as required by the standards. There is almost no protection from rotational acceleration. Most conventional helmets do offer good protection from skull fractures but a skull fracture alone will usually not result in death.
STREET RIDERS CAN GET THE SAME PROTECTION FROM ROTATIONAL ACCELERATION- THE 6D AST-1 FOR THE STREET IS NOW AVAILABLE
The FIM is said to be updating its Moto GP helmet standards to require new technology that allows for motorcycle rider protection from rotational acceleration. Brain damage from angular impacts can be better managed with this new technology. 6D has a patented fully active in helmet kinetic energy suspension management system it calls ODS. The ODS system reduces the transfer of rotational and angular acceleration to the brain . 6D was the first helmet company to offer this protection. Bell Helmets now recently have introduced helmets that offer protection from rotational acceleration and angular impacts to the head.
CONCLUSION-ITS ABOUT RISK MANAGEMENT
60% of all fatalities in motorcycle accidents are from brain injuries according to an October 2010 NHTSA report. Motorcycle riding is all about risk management. Just as you need to ride with a SEE (Search Evaluate Execute) safety riding strategy. You should also seek to minimize your risks of brain injury from rotational acceleration. You should always dress for the crash. Wearing the best helmet with the latest technology just makes sense. I have switched from my previous Shoei Air GT to the 6D AST-1 Helmet for the street and track. Hopefully other helmet manufacturers will offer this new technology. Check out the 6D site at http://www.6dhelmets.com/ats-1/
Glenn McGovern, Motorcycle Accident Attorney and MSF Instructor