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$425,000 system to rate riding helmets in development

New research to improve helmet safety for riders is “ready to get under way” thanks to donations topping $425,000 (£320,430).

The money will go towards independent research at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, in the US, which is working to establish a sport-specific helmet rating system (Equestrian STAR).

The lab’s researchers have been recreating specific impacts experienced by athletes in a variety of sports since 2011 to test protective headgear on the market that already meets at least minimum safety standards.

They then evaluate which are most effective at managing the impacts that lead to concussions and other head injuries and give helmets a star rating, based on how they perform.

Donors include the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the US Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and the US Eventing Association, plus a matching grant from Jacqueline Mars.

USEF has also shared fall and injury data from its competitions, which will be used in the research and development stages, and the hope is that the project will improve the safety of riders across all disciplines.

“We were asked what it would take to develop the system for equestrian sport: $450,000 to have the system available in 18-24 months,” said Barry Miller, director of outreach and business development for the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, explaining that support “accelerated quickly” following a presentation he gave at the 2019 USHJA annual meeting.

“The USHJA jumped on board immediately with a generous commitment, then Jacqueline Mars stepped up with her own matching donation, which the USEF board of directors and USEA board of governors matched dollar for dollar. We are ready now to get the initiative under way.

“It was great to work with the leaders from all the organisations, together with Jacqueline Mars, to quickly and collectively pull this together on behalf of all members across all breeds and disciplines to benefit improved safety for all.”

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The lab has developed STAR helmet ratings for a number of other sports, including American football, cycling, hockey and football, and the money raised means horse sport is set to be added to that list.

The fund will remain open for donations and any additional money will go towards speeding up the process.

To donate, visit: Virginia Tech Helmet Lab

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