Do equestrian helmets prevent concussion? A retrospective analysis of head injuries and helmet damage from real-world equestrian accidents

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Abstract

Objectives: To collect and analyse helmets from real-world equestrian accidents. To record reported head injuries associated with those accidents. To compare damage to helmets certified to different standards and the injuries associated with them. Methods: Two hundred sixteen equestrian helmets were collected in total. One hundred seventy-six helmets from amateur jockeys were collected via accident helmet return schemes in the UK and USA, while 40 helmets from professional jockeys were collected by The Irish Turf Club. All helmet damage was measured, and associated head injury was recorded. Results: Eighty-eight percent (189) of equestrian fall accidents returned an injury report of which 70% (139) reported a head injury. Fifty-four percent (75) of head injury cases had associated helmet damage while 46% had no helmet damage. Reported head injuries consisted of 91% (126) concussion, 4% (6) skull fractures, 1 (0.7%) subdural hematoma, 1 (0.7%) cerebral edema and 5 (3.6%) diffuse axonal injury (DAI). It is also shown that helmets certified to the most severe standard are overrepresented in this undamaged group (p <0.001). Conclusions: It is clear that despite jockeys wearing a helmet, large proportions of concussion injuries still occur in the event of a jockey sustaining a fall. However, the data suggest it is likely that helmets reduce the severity of head injury as the occurrence of skull fracture is low. The proportion of undamaged helmets with an associated head injury suggests that many helmets may be too stiff relative to the surface they are impacting to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It may be possible to improve helmet designs and certification tests to reduce the risk of head injury in low-severity impacts.

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Connor, T. A., Clark, J. M., Jayamohan, J., Stewart, M., McGoldrick, A., Williams, C., … Gilchrist, M. D. (2019). Do equestrian helmets prevent concussion? A retrospective analysis of head injuries and helmet damage from real-world equestrian accidents. Sports Medicine - Open, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0193-0

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