While most of us appreciate just how valuable bike helmets are when it comes to preventing serious brain injuries, we may nevertheless be lacking a basic understanding of how the helmet actually serves to protect us in the event of a bicycle accident.
According to medical experts, the basic idea behind bike helmet safety has to do with the almost instantaneous change in head speed that accompanies the standard bike accident.
"When you hit the pavement your hard skull will stop or decelerate quickly. However, being a relatively soft organ, your brain tends to keep going," said one expert. "If you imagine dropping a [panna cotta] onto a plate then you can see how bits at the back start compressing and piling up against other bits of brain at the front."
Traditional polystyrene bike helmets are structured in such a way as to create miniature crumple zones designed to absorb energy upon impact, thereby giving a rider's skull and brain a few more milliseconds to slow down before coming to a complete halt. While this may not seem like much time, it can often turn potential brain damage into a moderate concussion.
Interestingly, a student from London has come up with a new design for a bike helmet that represents something of a radical departure from the traditional polystyrene models that most people are accustomed to wearing.
Here, the helmet is constructed using paper.
While the idea of constructing a safe bike helmet out of paper hardly seems possible, the design student's paper helmet has actually been tested to European standards and even outperformed the traditional polystyrene helmet in crash tests.
"If you crash at 15 miles per hour in a normal helmet, your head will be subjected to around 220G [G-force], whereas the new design absorbs more of the impact and means you experience around 70G instead," said the student who began re-thinking helmet safety after suffering whiplash and a mild concussion in a bike accident.
What's the secret to the paper helmet?
According to the student, the paper helmet is comprised of a double-layer of honeycomb paper that is designed to function much like a series of mini-airbags in a bicycle crash, absorbing energy as they essentially pop all the way to the inner plastic lining.
While the paper helmet is available in shops throughout Europe, it remains to be seen whether it will cross the pond and, if so, whether it will be embraced by American bicycling enthusiasts ...
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious brain injury due to the negligence of another here in Tennessee, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options, your rights and your ability to secure justice.
Source: BBC News, "The secret ingredient for a safer bike helmet: paper," Ann Lacey, Jan. 11, 2014