Helmets & Other Personal Protective Equipment

Exponent’s engineers and scientists analyze and test the performance of head protection devices and other personal protective equipment, including gear used in recreational sports and activities, construction, military, and transportation. Our staff evaluates a variety of helmet types, including motorcycle, cycling, snow sport, sporting, and industrial helmets and headgear. We have also assessed injury mitigation with other personal protective and sporting equipment, including shoulder padding, braces, and back/chest protectors. Our analyses and evaluations utilize standardized test methods, in accordance with national and international standards, as well as reconstruction of real-world impact and injury scenarios. Our staff examines and analyzes post-accident helmet damage to determine additional information regarding the dynamics of an event. We combine accident findings with our knowledge of injury mechanics and human tolerance to assess the performance of the equipment and the capability of the equipment to mitigate injury. In addition, we answer questions regarding whether existing helmets, other protective devices, and/or modifications to existing designs would have prevented an injury in a specific dynamic event.

Helmet Effectiveness

Exponent can provide an in-depth analysis to determine whether use of a helmet (or other protective equipment) or a modified design would have prevented injury in a specific impact scenario. Such analyses may include a biomechanical accident reconstruction, analysis of human motion and impact kinematics, review of medical records and radiological imaging studies, knowledge of specific injury mechanisms, surrogate measurements, real-world testing, and/or computational simulations (e.g. MADYMO).


Figure 1: Drop testing comparing unhelmeted head impacts onto asphalt to the same impact conditions with various style motorcycle helmets.

Real-World Impact Testing 

Exponent has a unique set of facilities that allow its engineers and scientists to design and execute tests that recreate real-world accident scenarios using various testing methodologies. For example, our engineers have developed test methodologies to evaluate the performance of helmets and other personal protective equipment used in industrial environments, snow sports, water sports, motorcycling, bicycling, climbing, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, and football. 


Figure 2: Testing of a helmet-to-helmet impact between football players.

Figure 3: Indoor testing to evaluate snow sports helmet performance under realistic fall conditions.

Figure 4: Baseball impact testing evaluating injury mitigation with helmet use.

Post-Accident Helmet Inspection/Analysis 

Our staff examines the post-accident damage to helmets to determine information about an impact event, including kinematics and the performance of helmet components. We can use non-destructive techniques, such as 3D laser scans, CT scans, to examine helmets to determine the extent of damage, impact location, energy-absorbing liner performance, and severity of the event.

Helmets and Rotational Head Injuries

Although helmets are often tested and certified based on their ability to reduce head linear accelerations, certain head injuries in contact sports have been attributed to rotational head motion. While it is clear that helmets cannot prevent all rotational brain injuries, the effectiveness of helmets in reducing rotational head kinematics has been an area of emphasis in our research and testing. Studies conducted by Exponent have investigated the effect of helmet use on rotational head dynamics, and the performance of traditional and emerging helmet designs in mitigating injuries attributed to rotational mechanics. This testing includes ball impacts to baseball helmets, and angled impacts of football, bicycle, and motorcycle helmets. Our research and testing has quantified the performance of various helmet designs under impact conditions that produce both linear and rotational head kinematics.

Standardized Testing 

Exponent can perform testing of helmets and other sporting and protective equipment according to the specifications found in most national and international standards, including ASTM, EN and ISO standards. Our test facilities include drop rail, projectile, sled and pendulum impact systems as well as material testing capabilities.