Virginia Tech Helmet Lab expands beyond sports

Richmond Times Dispatch

June 29, 2024

Virginia Tech’s Helmet Lab has become known for its work in the athletics field, from football to NASCAR safety.

Now, the lab is expanding beyond sports.

This summer, researchers will begin an 18-month study to develop the first ratings system for safety helmets such as hard hats, according to a university news release. The ratings system will join the nine sports the lab already produces ratings for using their five-star scale.

The lab has conducted injury biomechanics research outside sports before, including its research on toy product safety and work with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership on drone impact testing for operations over people. However, this is the first time that the lab will extend its impact by developing a ratings system to evaluate a nonsports helmet, according to the release.

“Of all industries, construction has the most workplace fatalities,” said Steve Rowson, the lab’s director. “Identifying, improving, and implementing better head protection could be the difference between life and death for some of these accidents.”

From 2000-08, the construction industry was responsible for more traumatic brain injuries than any other industry, according to an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. These injury scenarios cause high head injury risk from the high speeds involved.

In this project, researchers will study head impact and concussion risk in a work site environment, according to the release.

The work has been expedited by a joint commitment of funding and guidance from the John R. Gentille Foundation, ELECTRI International, the American Society of Concrete Contractors, and the Association of Union Constructors, according to the release.

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