When riding a motorcycle, any impact to the brain can be catastrophic. That’s why wearing a high-quality helmet is one of the most crucial rules for riding safely.
Over the last few years, manufacturers have promoted a safety technology known as the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) helmet. By reducing the force transmitted to your head during a collision, MIPS helmets can reduce the risk of motorcyclists suffering head injuries.
So, what exactly is a MIPS helmet and how does it work?
What is MIPS?
MIPS is a thin, low-friction layer that is inserted between a helmet’s inner liner and outer shell. The layer is meant to lessen the likelihood of head and brain injuries caused by sudden impact during a motorcycle crash.
MIPS, the company responsible for creating the MIPS technology, does not manufacture the layers of protection for motorcycle helmets. Instead, the MIPS company partners with helmet manufacturers to develop and incorporate MIPS layers into their products.
The MIPS company also partners with manufacturers to create equestrian helmets, construction helmets, and many more. There were approximately 729 brands featuring MIPS-equipped helmets on the market in 2020, and 7.3 million MIPS helmets were sold.
How does MIPS work?
A sudden brain movement in a collision can mean the difference between a minor headache, a traumatic brain injury, or even death.
In your skull, fluid allows your brain to shift and rotate slightly, protecting your brain from forces caused by rotational impacts. To absorb and disperse impact energy, MIPS technology mimics your head’s own protective structure by allowing the helmet to rotate and shift between 10 and 15mm around your head in any direction upon impact. This reduces the rotational forces transferred to your brain in the most critical 5 to 10 milliseconds after a crash — something that typical motorcycle helmets don’t do.
By allowing the helmet to rotate slightly when an impact occurs, the most severe rotational force of the crash is absorbed by the helmet’s movement instead of being transferred to your skull and brain. The MIPS system can reduce the strain in your brain between 10 to 50%, depending on the severity and type of crash involved.
If you lessen rotational impact on your brain in a motorcycle collision, risk of severe traumatic brain injury and death can be reduced.
Are normal helmet safety standards enough?
According to government safety standards, the inclusion of MIPS technology in a motorcycle helmet is not mandatory. MIPS is simply an add-on safety feature.
Normal motorcycle helmets can still help protect you during direct impacts with objects and the ground. However, non-MIPS helmets do not offer much protection when a rider strikes an object or the ground at an angle.
If you crash on a motorcycle, it is unlikely you will suffer a head impact in which you fall straight down without moving forward. Two-thirds of all motorcyclists who hit their heads in falls do so at some angle to the ground, not a perfectly straight vertical drop. When motorcyclists hit their heads at an angle, they are potentially subjecting their brains to rotational motion trauma.
Unfortunately, helmet testing and safety certification consists mostly of “drop tests” that drop a helmet vertically to simulate a direct impact — despite most crashes involving an angled impact. An angled impact creates rotational energy, which increases the likelihood of concussions.
We believe that using a MIPS helmet is critical for motorcycle riders. Research has shown that adults with a history of moderate traumatic brain injury have a 2.3 times greater risk of developing Alzhiemer’s and a 25% higher risk of developing dementia.
MIPS Motorcycle Helmets Are Worth It
Although MIPS helmets may cost more than a normal motorcycle helmet, the investment in your safety is worth it. A motorcycle helmet can’t prevent all injuries, but you can take this precautionary measure to help minimize your potential brain trauma risk before hopping on your bike.
Purchasing a MIPS helmet is a small cost with big rewards when it comes to motorcycle safety. Make sure to upgrade to a MIPS helmet this riding season.