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Check Ya Head: The Importance of Speedskating Helmets

11 Jun 2015

Many skaters reach speeds higher than most recreational cyclists, close to 40 miles per hour in a sprint. In fact, it’s not uncommon for skaters to hit their heads when they fall, so the reality of more skaters making the choice to wear a speed skating helmet while skating is a good thing. But how do helmets impact a skaters form? Here we explore eight questions and answers about helmets for skating.

Is a helmet mandatory for skaters?

Not in all countries, but perhaps it should be. For instance, in The Netherlands, The Dutch Federation will require the use of a speed skating helmet when skating a marathon starting next season. Cádo Motus agrees with their position, especially after a series of serious incidents in speed skating last winter. Safety first. We must do what we can. The introduction of compulsory helmet and cut-resistant clothing are the first steps. Ex-marathon skater Geert Plender wrote another ten reasons for requiring helmets. While the helmet already mandatory in mass start formats, its use in long track speed skating hasn’t yet
been discussed.

Why is wearing a speed skating helmet while speedskating a good choice?

Believe it or not, in skating, the risk of a head injury is the greatest of all sports. In fact, the risk is more than 17 times greater than an average sports like basketball or baseball and other "dangerous sports" like motor sports and various martial arts. With ten head injuries per 100,000 hours and nearly three cases of brain injury in the same number of hours skating, the numbers speak for themselves. In fact, the introduction of a helmet into similar speed sports such as skiing and snowboarding resulted in a decrease in these figures by upwards of 60%. (Swen Faber in "Open Letter to the skating world," October 31, 2014.)

How is a speed skating helmet deemed safe?

The rules of the international skating federation ISU Short Track Speed Skating will likely be applied to marathon skating helmets. The rules state that helmets must meet the ASTM 1849 standard, particularly for how impact tests should be done and under what conditions, specifically with regard to testing at typical ice skating temperatures.

It’s important to understand that impact stands for the energy of a falling object, or force multiplied by distance (f x d), expressed in Joules. The helmet test is simple: an anvil of 4kg, which serves as a representation of a skate is dropped on a helmet. It’s done at different positions on the helmet, but always with the center of the anvil, not with the point. This is done to measure blunt impact. An impact with the corner, or point, of an anvil would most likely produce a cut or pierce, which is not what’s being tested for. These tests measure the helmets ability to absorb the energy created byimpact.

What rules apply for helmet design?

A skate helmet must follow the shape, or outer contour of the head. This is a key distinctive for skating helmets, which are unlike bike helmets, which often have a pointed shape. This has to do with the fact that skaters sometimes fall backwards and with a pointy helmet, there is risk of neck injury in those cases.

Should a speed skating helmet be closed or ventilated?

As crazy as it seems, the rules say nothing about this. To us, it seems only logical that the helmet must be closed. After all, the risk of a blade coming through a vent exists, and a skaters head can still get seriously hurt. We think ice skating helmets should be denser to protect from cuts and piercing from blades. But the obvious disadvantage is that without proper ventilation, a skaters head will get warm quickly. It’s for this reason that many short track helmets are not suitable as a helmet for long distances.

Is there a helmet that meets the needs of long distance ice skaters and still meet design requirements?

Yes. Marchese has come up with a helmet specifically designed to meet the needs of the distance skater. With a European fit, its sturdy but very light weight, with just enough ventilation, and the ability to use dense covers when needed. And the covers come in different colors. It’s also got an option to integrate a visor. Fully functional, it meets design standards and creature comfort. It’s truly a brilliant design.

Are there any professional skaters or organizations wearing these helmets?

Yes. In the last marathon of the season, many pros chose the Marchese skating helmet specifically because it was engineered and built with a core understanding of a skaters needs. Steigerplank.nl, Haardhout.com and Green Heart are all outfitted with the Marchese helmet. And Mariska Huisman, Francesca Lollobrigida and Remco Schouten have already won races with it. We’ve also seen Bart de Vries, Bart Mol, Fabio Francolini and many others wear the helmet to their full satisfaction.

Where and when can I get this speed skating helmet?

The helmet is coming in time for the winter 2015-16 season and will be available through all Cádomotus and Marchese dealers.