There’s no doubt that wearing a motorcycle helmet is better than not wearing one, but various studies have shown that there’s one potentially-lethal injury that they don’t protect against - rotational injury, also known as intracerebral shearing. When a rider’s helmet hits the road, its rigid shell catches against the pavement and causes the helmet to very rapidly twist around. The rider’s head twists with the helmet, but does it so quickly that the brain doesn’t quite keep up, moving a few milliseconds after the skull it’s contained in. The result is the shearing of nerves and blood vessels, resulting in disabilities or even death. Lazer Helmets is now offering something claimed to reduce the risk of this injury by almost 70% - helmets with skin.
SuperSkin is an elastic membrane that covers the outside of the helmet. It has a gel lubricant underneath, to help it slide against the helmet’s hard shell. The idea is that when a SuperSkin helmet hits the road, its membrane is what will catch the pavement, twist around, and tear away. The helmet will obviously still move, but only once those initial milliseconds of energy have been absorbed by the membrane. It’s modeled after the way the scalp slides against the skull.
So does it really work? Lazer would certainly have us think so. Philips Helmets Limited, a British company, spent 15 years developing the technology. They sent helmets to the Louis Pasteur University of Strasbourg for independent testing, who determined that they reduced the risk of intracerebral shearing by 67.5%.
Belgium’s Lazer Helmets licensed the technology, and now offers it on three of their models. While they have exclusive rights to its use on motorcycle helmets, designer Dr. Ken Philips hopes it will also be picked up for cycling and riding helmets.