Oliver Townend and that Rolex fall. Would you believe that his helmet looked perfect on the outside?
By now, everyone will have seen either video footage or pictures of Oliver Townend's horrific fall at Rolex Kentucky and we are all so thankful that Oliver did not suffer more serious injury. Without doubt, such footage reminds us all about the important part that our safety gear plays in helping to protect us in the event of a fall from a horse, as we all know that riding is a risky sport. And while every hat manufacturer would recommend that a hat be replaced after a fall, Oliver's fall at Kentucky should also remind us that even though a hat may look fine on the outside, it may have suffered severe damage during a fall, which is not always evident at first glance.
Oliver sent the Champion Ventair helmet that he was wearing at Kentucky back to the Champion factory in Cardiff, so that their technical experts could evaluate the extent of the damage. While the internal damage was described as 'extensive', on the outside the only evidence of damage to the helmet is a slight scuff mark. When the hat was stripped apart at the Champion factory, however, the shock absorbing polystyrene liner of Oliver's damaged helmet was shown to have been crushed at the front left side down to 11mm, while the pictures taken of the stripped helmet also clearly show a crack on the opposite side where the liner has been crushed to 17mm. A new undamaged liner is approx 21mm at these points, a difference of up to 10mm. Further examination of the helmet also showed a large indent in the rear left lower side of the liner, which technical experts believe was made by the impact with the log, with measurements showing the liner had been crushed at this point to 13mm, which compares again to the 21mm thickness of a new liner.
No one can dispute the fact that Oliver's fall at Kentucky was horrific and that his helmet should undoubtedly be replaced. What Champion's technical examination makes clear, however, is the fact that you should not rely on the outward appearance of a helmet to assume it's in good condition. In Oliver's case, although his helmet looked almost perfect after the fall, it was clear from structural analysis that it had done its job well - a job which was to absorb impact to help protect him from a more severe injury.
So for safety's sake, if a hat or helmet suffers impact in a fall, replace it. After all, it's easy to replace your hat.Tweet