Air bags aren’t used for just car safety, apparently.
That’s what these Stanford bioengineers believe anyway, as they’ve been experimenting with incorporating the crash safeguard into common bike helmets. The immediate mental image may be humorous at first, but their tests have shown helmets with air bags can significantly reduce brain injuries.
Publishing their findings in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, author David Camarillo quickly pointed to dangers of cycling (yes, it’s a thing). Bicycling is surprisingly the leading cause of sports-related concussions and brain injuries in the U.S., not contact sports such as football or hockey.
In initial bike helmet tests, Camarillo first tried a helmet with a soft pocket that supports the neck.
“We conducted drop tests, which are typical federal tests to assess bicycle helmets, and we found that air bag helmets, with the right initial pressure, can reduce head accelerations five to six times compared to a traditional bicycle helmet,” postdoctoral scholar Mehmet Kurt explained in a press release.
Like car tests with crash dummies flying and air bags popping, the Stanford team did the same with their helmet tests. They dropped dummies from varying heights and angles sporting different helmets, one including the air bag. The air bag helmet performed exceptionally, with the researchers crediting the larger helmet size as a key to the prototype’s success. The extra room allowed the scientists to create a helmet that’s more snug and soft than anything on the market today.
“As our paper suggests, although air bag helmets have the potential to reduce the acceleration levels that you experience during a bicycle accident, it also suggests that the initial pressure that your air bag helmet has is very critical in reducing these acceleration levels,” Kurt said.
See the air bag bike helmet take on a traditional headpiece in the bike helmet showdown below.