Jan 29, 2015
Helmet Rating System Debuts

By Abigail Funk

As we learn more and more about concussions and develop improved prevention techniques, researchers at Virginia Tech have answered the call for an assessment tool that consumers can refer to when purchasing football helmets. Last week, the school revealed a rating system for adult helmets, awarding those that best protected against concussions the highest scores and those that were the worst protectors the lowest scores.


“Currently, if you go to buy a helmet, all you’re looking at are aesthetics and price, and whatever the manufacturer tells you to try to convince you it’s good,” Stefan Duma, PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and the project’s lead biomedical engineer, told the New York Times. “We wanted to develop a system to quantify which helmets perform better specifically with risk of concussion.”

Points were awarded to helmets based on their STAR rating, an acronym for “Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk value.” According to a press release from Virginia Tech, three helmets of each model on the market were purchased and tested at four impact locations (front, back, side, and top) at five different impact drop heights ranging from 12 to 60 inches.

By the time a helmet was done being tested, it had experienced 120 impacts. Researchers equated the number of impacts and their varying severities to one season of full participation at the collegiate level.

Though the rating system is the first of its kind, not everyone is on board with the methods of assessment. For example, the tests did not take rotational forces into account, which have been documented to cause concussions. Several helmet manufacturers have voiced concern about the rating system and if it is a true predictor of concussion safety.

“I’m unmoved by this information, and I would say that no matter how our helmet was ranked,” Vin Ferrara, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Xenith–whose X1 model was ranked among the most protective available–told the Times. “We find this type of ranking concept to be detrimental to consumer understanding and detrimental to the development of superior helmets.”

A full list of the helmet ratings can be seen on and/or downloaded from the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences Web site.

Abigail Funk is the Managing Editor of Training & Conditioning. She can be reached at: [email protected].

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