Accident on your Bicycle? Check Your Helmet After a Crash
Have you recently been in a bicycle crash? Are you wondering whether you need to replace your helmet or not? If you answered yes to these questions, it looks like the helmet has done its job of protecting you during the incident. This, however, doesn’t mean your helmet will be able to protect you again from any future crash. After a crash, you need to check your bicycle helmet to assess the damage and decide if it is safe to wear again.
At First Glance- Bicycle Helmet After Crash
In general, bicycle helmets will need to be replaced after a crash. Even if it still looks undamaged, the strength of the helmet may be compromised after taking the blow from the fall. Typically, helmets are made to withstand one crash and consequently, the components may be permanently damaged. You should inspect the bicycle helmet after crash to check for problems.
What to Double Check
There are three components of the helmet that provide you with protection: the shell, the lining, and the straps/buckles.
The Shell is the hard, outer layer that takes the initial impact from the fall and protects the interior lining. After a crash, check for obvious cracks, indentations, bumps, and separation from the liner. These are major issues that prove that the integrity of the helmet is lost.
Next, the Lining is what allows us to experience less of the force of impact. Foam liners are designed to compress upon collision, keeping our skull safer, however the liner may never regain its original shape. You may see cracks in the foam, flaking or crumbling, or thinning spots which means it can no longer do its job of protecting you.
Last, but not least, the Straps and Buckles are what keeps the helmet secured. This aspect may be ignored or forgotten since it isn’t providing a buffer between your head and the ground, however is just as important to the other two components. Check for any fraying in the strap or cracks in the buckle to ensure that these weren’t compromised in the crash. Your helmet can’t do you any good if it flies off in a crash.
Type of Helmet Foam
You may already know this if you’re a consumer reports expert, but there are two major types of foam used for helmets: EPS and EPP. Most helmets are made with EPS, or Styrofoam. This definitely does the trick for our bike helmets, however this material cracks easily and is not very durable after a few hits. If you crashed your bicycle wearing one of these foam helmets, you will most likely need to replace it immediately.
EPP is the second type of foam, which does not yet appear to have a common name. This is more indestructible after wear and tear and will be able to retain its shape more easily than Styrofoam. If you have a helmet using this foam, there is a chance that you may not need to replace it.
Helmets that use EPP foam are going to be the more high end and newer products on the market. They are used most frequently in hockey helmets that anticipate frequent impacts. There are bike helmets that use this foam as well, however you should be sure of this before deciding to keep your helmet after the crash. If there is any doubt, contact the manufacturer of your helmet to get their advice on the product.
So what else can you do?
Even before a crash, you should check your helmet periodically for damage, especially if left in your garage. Exposure to the elements, temperature change, or even body oils can be detrimental to the lining and shell over time. It is recommended that you replace your helmet every 5 years to ensure you will be protected from a potential crash.
If you have been in a bicycle accident that involved falling and hitting your head, the ready answer will always be to replace it. The helmet has done its job to defend you, and most likely will not be able to help as efficiently the next time.
Although replacing a helmet may set you back a few bucks, having that peace of mind that you are prepared for that possibility is definitely worth it. The best thing you can do is inspect your helmet as thoroughly as you can and make a wise judgement. Ultimately, it is your choice and if you regularly wear a helmet, you are already making the best decision for your safety.