MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and up until recently, I had never heard of it, which is surprising because the technology has been around for some time now and is an established safety feature in cycling and skiing helmets. Indeed the more I learn about it, the more surprised I am that it’s taken so long for MIPS to filter into the equestrian world (but then I suppose a sport that relies so much on the premise of tradition doesn’t always lend itself naturally to change!)
Research began in the late 1990’s by leading Swedish brain surgeons and scientists looking to design a helmet that could reduce the rotational forces that can result from certain impacts. Now, clearly I am not a brain surgeon So bear with me while I try and explain the science behind the technology! The key concept that differs is the idea of mitigating against rotational force, as opposed to force from a blunt impact. Accident statistics show that the most common injuries occur where an angled impact causes rotation of the head and brain (so when the brain is jiggled around in our head, as opposed to a single blunt force). Think of a jam jar full of water. You swirl the water around and around and then put it down. The jar then acts as a stabilising force to diffuse the movement of the water. MIPS essentially acts as the jam jar by seeking to mimic the brain’s own built-in protection system. Two layers inside the helmet rotate against each other, allowing the helmet to slide under angled impact and reduce the impact of rotational force (essentially protecting the water in the jam jar from being shaken too aggressively).
What it also does is replicate the action of our scalp. During a fall, the scalp helps to dissipate energy from an impact by stretching. But the scalp only has so much stretch in it and once it reaches its stretch limit, the brain will continue its movement, causing damage. A MIPS liner seeks to increase that stretch limit and mitigate against the likelihood of brain injuries. For example, the MIPS Charles Owen helmets increase stretch movement from 12 to 24mm and the technology is now incorporated in the Charles Owen My PS peaked helmet and the MS1 Pro jockey skull – both of which are now available at Country Ways.
MIPS is a cause close to my heart (or perhaps I should say head!) I know all about sustaining a serious head injury and the life-changing impact it can have. I wish now I had been wearing a MIPS helmet when I had my accident, but I fell head first down the stairs in my house and honestly who can say they would ever think to wear a hat in their own house?! A fedora perhaps if you were feeling fancy, but the chances of you having an actual helmet on would be slim to none! The chance of having one on when you are riding are 100% however (or at least they should be). And whilst you can never guarantee the outcome of an accident, you can take steps to reduce the potential damage.
Testing of MIPS helmets has shown marked improvement in the type of falls that you would see at speed, typically seen in disciplines that include cantering or galloping. And because the technology is inside the helmet, a MIPS hat looks the same as any other. It feels the same too (having tried a few on myself!) Some people have asked whether the helmet will feel like its slipping around on their head when they are wearing it. But because the MIPS liner system only kicks in at high speed, it’s only going to do its job (ie stretch and move) when it needs to. And that’s when you are having a fall at speed. And that’s when you want it to work!
If you’d like to find out more about MIPS, then pop in past Country Ways. We are hosting a’ Get set for the season and rider safety’ event this weekend with 10% off your purchases. With free fittings for all hat and body protectors and a free Charles Owen hat bag with any Charles Owen hat purchased*.
*Whilst stocks last. Offer excludes Samshield, sale items, gift vouchers and some other items. See our website for detials.