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MIPS Helmets VS Standard Helmets

Finding the right bicycle helmet can be tricky, which is why at Green Flag, we’re committed to ensuring you have all of the information before you make that all-important purchase. Safety is paramount, so we know how important it is to get the facts before you decide. In this guide, we’re taking a look at the difference between MIPS cycle helmets and standard helmets. Remember, if you have any questions about any of our outdoor gear, our friendly team is ready and waiting to help you out.

MIPS Helmets VS Standard Helmets

Cycling in the UK has become increasingly popular, with cyclists taking an average of 333 trips per year in 2018, and cycling 61% further than they did in 2002 (Department of Transport Statistics, 2018). With this rise in popularity, there is a paralleled increase in the number of cycling accidents. 

Two thirds of head injuries from cycling accidents could have been avoided by wearing a helmet (Rizzi, Stigson and Krafft, 2013). Thus the importance of wearing bike helmets is clear- but which helmet is best?

What is a MIPS cycling helmet?

MIPS stands for ‘Multi-directional Impact Protection System’. 

The Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) consists of a thin slip liner that lies on the inside of the helmet, and allows your head to slightly slide and rotate in the event of a crash or fall. 

Why is this important? 

Studies have shown that in the majority of ‘real-world’ crashes, the head falls at and angle of 30-60 degrees (Bourdet et al., 2012, 2014Otte, 1989). This means that cyclists are subject to two different types of forces during an accident: linear and rotational (Willinger et al., 2014). Now, whilst the average cycling helmet uses polystyrene foam to combat this linear force, the MIPS helmet goes one step further, by actually protecting the cyclist from both of these forces in the critical first few milliseconds of impact.

How effective are they?

The next important question to ask is: Do they really work?

This is exactly what a team of scientists did when they compared a total 30 different types of helmets. Virginia Tech, a leading investigator in helmet testing, awarded the top 6 spots to helmets equipped with Multi-directional Impact Protection System technology. MIPS helmets out-preformed other helmets, producing the lowest ‘STAR’ values- a novel equation that condenses helmet performance into a single number (Bland et al., 2019)

Johan Thiel, CEO of MIPS commented, “We are proud to see the results of the STAR testing at Virginia Tech. Here, you clearly can see the benefits of helmets with MIPS Brain Protection System (BPS),” and “After thousands of hours in research, testing, and development, we are very glad to see all of the work that we’ve done verified by Virginia Tech”.

Steve Rowson, director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab said, “Our goal with these ratings is to give cyclists an evidence-based tool for making informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of injury,”

Another independent study supports these findings when testing 17 helmets sold in Europe. Researchers found that the MIPS helmets consistently performed better. Again, in every test created to evaluate injury, the Multi-directional Impact Protection System technology outperformed other helmets (Stigson et al., 2017). 

Both studies show MIPS helmet superiority when independently tested through objectively experiments, designed by researchers with no financial interest in MIPS tech. 

Will MIPS become the new standard?

A shift in the way we test cycling helmets will be happening soon.

At the moment, cycling helmets are only tested for linear acceleration before being approved for sale. This means that the huge impact of these rotational forces is currently being overlooked. This is likely going to change with the numerous studies that have now shown the huge impact of rotational forces, many of which citing them as the main cause of head trauma upon collision (Kleiven et al. 2007; Zhang et al., 2003).

What will a MIPS helmet protect me from?

MIPS helmets have been shown to perform better, we want to know why. What’s really going on underneath the helmet?

A Swedish scientist showed that rotational forces were the most important factor in determining the amount of ‘brain strain’ that occurred (Kleiven et al. 2007). Brain strain is essentially a measure of how much the grey matter inside your brain moves when your head hits something. Scientists use this measure to predict the degree of head trauma. With head-injury as the cause of death in 69-93% of fatal bike accidents (Wood and Milne, 1986; Elsen et al., 1997;), wearing the right helmet to protect yourself is really important, and the research suggests that MIPS helmets are the safest choice.

Janzing, H ; Elsen, M ; Broos, Paul ; Delooz, H. John. Head injuries in bicycle accidents. Wright & Sons. British Journal of Surgery; (1997), Vol. 84; pp. 78 - 78

Stigson, H., Rizzi, M., Ydenius, A., Engstroem, E., and Kullgren, A., 2017, “Consumer Testing of Bicycle Helmets,” International Research Council on the Biomechanics of Injury Conference (IRCOBI Conference), Antwerp, Belgium, Sept. 13–15, Paper No. IRC-17-30

Wood, T., & Milne, P. (1988). Head injuries to pedal cyclists and the promotion of helmet use in Victoria, Australia. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 20(3), 177–185. doi:10.1016/0001-4575(88)90002-4

N. Bourdet, C. Deck, R.P. Carreira, R. Willinger. Head impact conditions in the case of cyclist falls. J. Sports Eng. Technol., 226 (3/4) (2012), pp. 282-289

N. Bourdet, C. Deck, T. Serre, C. Perrin, M. Llari, R. Willinger. In-depth real-world bicycle accident reconstruction. Int. J. Crashworthiness., 19 (3) (2014), pp. 222-232

D. Otte. Injury mechanism and crash kinematic of cyclists in accidents — an analysis of real accidents. SAE Trans., 98 (1989), pp. 1606-1625 (Section 6: JOURNAL OF PASSENGER CARS)

R. Willinger, C. Deck, P. Halldin, D. Otte. (2014) Towards advanced bicycle helmet test methods. Paper Presented at: Proceedings, International Cycling Safety Conference

Rizzi, M., Stigson, H., Krafft, M. (2013) Cyclist injuries leading to permanent medical impairment in Sweden and the effect of bicycle helmets. Proceedings of IRCOBI Conference, 2013, Gothenburg, Sweden

Bland, M.L., McNally, C., Zuby, D.S. et al. (2020) Development of the STAR Evaluation System for Assessing Bicycle Helmet Protective Performance. Ann Biomed Eng. 48, 47–57 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-019-02330-0