How Do You Know When To Replace Your Helmet?

I think it’s pretty common knowledge that a helmet needs replacing after a significant impact. But what about smaller impacts? What if you’ve had your helmet for a while and it’s taken a few knocks – how do you know that it’s time to replace your helmet?

In my case, I’m pretty certain that it’s time to replace my lid. I’ve been using that helmet since 2004 and know that I’ve had more than a few impacts. I sometimes wonder if it’s worth wearing it at all? But again, the question is, how do you know?

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Useful information from mountain biking?

I’ve done a bit of reading around and, as you might expect, a lot of the information about replacing helmets refers to mountain biking/cycling. The basic, take home advice, is to replace your helmet after a crash. The interior foam of a helmet is designed to protect the head – a crash can reduce the effectiveness of the foam…

So how does that relate to snowboarding?

I don’t know about you, but I fall over a lot. I’ve easily had five slams involving a head collision in that helmet. Snow is softer that tarmac, but the piste is still pretty solid.

Is anybody aware of guidelines specific to snowboarding? Has anybody noticed replacement-information that’s packaged with a new helmet? Can you learn stuff simply by looking at the inside of your helmet? Obviously if there’s a huge crack somewhere, inside or outside, that’s a strong message to get a new lid. But does the polystyrene foam itself show any signs of weakness?

Not too long ago I wrote an article asking the question: should you wear a snowboarding helmet? Overall – I still like to have a helmet on in certain situations, plus, it’s a requirement when shredding the indoor snowdomes. What I don’t know is how often they need to be replaced…

Have you ever replaced your helmet on the grounds that you think it’s losing effectiveness?

10 Comments

  • Reply January 3, 2011

    David Z

    I recently replaced mine, was just about as old as yours from the sounds of it. I had a few nasty spills last year including a collision which I’m pretty sure gave me a mild concussion. At the end of the year (I had neglected to pay attention to my helmet) I removed the liner and saw a massive crack running along the perimeter of the helmet’s interior – it was totally compromised.

    I’d say check it regularly, especially after falls. If you’ve had a few good spills even if it looks OK it’s probably time to replace it – but like you I’m not aware of any real “guidelines” as to how frequently or how many impacts are too many.

  • Reply January 3, 2011

    Gavin

    Hey David,

    that’s interesting that yours had a crack on the interior structure. I’ve been checking mine, and haven’t seen anything yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think I need to replace it. I’m gonna take a look at some of my friends’ lids, just to see if I notice anything.

    Cheers

  • Reply January 3, 2011

    David Z

    I’ve been meaning to do a writeup on the same topic – if I ever get around to it I will take a picture of the damage. It’s unbelievable!

  • Reply January 3, 2011

    Gavin

    Mate, do it, I’m looking forward to the picture of the damage!

  • Reply January 7, 2011

    David Z

    On a related note I just read a blip in the latest TWSnow they talked to someone who works for a helmet manufacturer who says “there is no such thing as a standard for multiple-impact helmets” and advises to replace your helmet after any significant impact.

  • Reply January 10, 2011

    Gavin

    Yeah – I guess the next question then, is what constitutes a significant impact?

    I’ve had plenty of knocks – I wouldn’t want to replace my lid every time I fall and hit my head, but then again, if it’s a bad crash, it does make sense to get a new one.

    Cheers for the update!

  • Reply January 25, 2011

    Natie

    I always wear a helmet when boarding. I once had a tumble in my earlier learning stages and bounced of my head and was suprised that I didnt feel a thing. No pain, no injury, no problem!

    We were once staying in a hotel where two of my mates had the top room with the sloping of the roof. They kept banging there heads on the arches much to my amusement. I watched one of them bash his head I just doubled up laughing.

    After that they kept their helmets on in their room all the time.

    I also had a big off wearing my helmet, a serious accident.
    I dont remember or know anything about it I had concusion but didnt loose concousness. Just kept repeating myself soo much it drove everyone nuts
    I had lost all memory.
    My short term memory gone. My long term returned.
    I was taken to hospital and forced to stay in for a few days no more snowboarding.
    Just think if I was not wearing a helmet. It would have been 10 time worse.
    I have bought a new helmet as I realised it probably save me and is now damaged internally.
    So always wear a helmet.

  • Reply January 26, 2011

    Gavin

    Hey Natie,

    thanks for commenting. In my mind, if you wear a helmet, you’re better off overall. You can’t not be better off. And like you’ve pointed out, if you have a nasty head impact, the helmet may end up saving you big time.

    People will still argue that it’s a personal assessment of risk, and they’re right, it’s an individual decisions. Personally, I’ve decided on the scenarios in which I want to wear a helmet, and there are some days that I decide not too. But if it’s park or off piste, I want a lid.

    Glad your friends found a second benefit – low, sloping ceilings 😉

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Marla

    I seem to fall on the back of my head regardless of whether I’m in motion, off the lift, or standing still at the end of a run. If I didn’t wear my helmet my head would surely be cracked. I just took a hit that was hard enough to make me see stars and then cry uncontrollably. ER doc said concussion. Not wearing a helmet regardless of your skill seems like a risk not worth taking. Have you ever seen what a TBI can do?

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    Gavin

    Hey Maria,

    glad you’re wearing a helmet, you seem to be banging your head a lot!

    Fortunately I’ve not had to witness a TBI…

    Keep shredding safe!

    Gavin

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