According to a report by Accident and Emergency consultant and sports equipment specialist Dr Michael Whitlock, head injuries to riders have decreased dramatically in severity since the introduction and greater acceptability of approved riding helmets.

The report, which was unveiled at a recent special BSI (British Standards Institution) open testing day, revealed statistics from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. These show that in 1971, 66% of admissions following equestrian-related accidents were due to head injuries – 20 years later, when this study was repeated, the figure had reduced to 26%.

Dr Whitlock studied patients admitted to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in 2000 with a riding-related injury and of 260 surveyed, 45 suffered head injuries with 36 of thosecaused by a fall while riding. All those injured while riding were wearing a helmet conforming to the European standard or equivalent (BS EN 1384 or PAS 015).

The remaining nine head injuries were received while the patient was involved with horses but not riding. None of these patients had been wearing a helmet at the time of the injury.

Of the 45 patients who suffered head injuries, 24 had a cerebal injury (injury to the brain) with five being admitted, although none required brain surgery.

Of the 205 patients who were injured due to fall when riding, the only fatality occurred when the hat worn came off before impact.

“The research shows that wearing an approved standard hat does reduce the severity of headinjuries, to the extent that most of those in the Surrey study were able to leave hospital on the same day that they were admitted,” says Dr Whitlock.

The open testing day was supported by British manufacturers Champion, Charles Owen and Design Headwear (Gatehouse), whose hats all carry the BSI Kitemark.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (27 March), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.