As riders, we are all aware that a fall from our horse could be just around the corner. Luckily for us there are brainy bods around the world working on protecting us, and one system in particular, known as MIPS, has made a big impact on safety.

MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It is found inside some riding helmets, usually between the comfort padding and the energy-absorbing high-quality foam. In certain types of falls, MIPS reduces the forces on the brain, lessening the incidence of severe brain damage or death.

MIPS is used in helmets worn in a range of potential high-impact sports, including horse riding, cycling, motorcycling, snow sports and rock climbing, as well as in the construction industry, where head trauma
is a risk. MIPS is an optional safety add-on and isn’t fitted in all helmets.

Technology in action

“In a head-on or linear impact, the brain is protected from damage by, initially, the helmet liner and then the skull,” explains MIPS CEO Max Strandwitz. “However, falls where the head receives an impact at an angle are much more common.”

This type of fall causes the head within the helmet to rotate and, as it twists, the brain experiences rotational motion too, meaning that it absorbs some of the impact. Being particularly sensitive to rotational motion, damage can occur.

“MIPS is a shield which, when placed in the helmet, redirects the energy by ensuring the helmet rotates slightly around the head,” continues Max. “The low friction of MIPS allows a sliding motion of 10-15mm in all directions, reducing the forces transmitted to the brain during impact.”

The system has undergone exhaustive tests and research over 20 years, with the first MIPS helmet, a riding hat, being made available in 2007.

“We took the helmet to the Gothenburg Show and sold out,” says Max. “However, it became clear quite quickly that although MIPS was doing the job extremely well, we weren’t great at designing helmets, and now we provide the system to helmet manufacturers to include in their ranges, and we concentrate on the technology aspect.”

Max and his team now supply to over 100 manufacturers across the globe, with motocross being the biggest adopter of the system.

Manufacturers’ views

Charles Owen has adopted MIPS into three of its helmet styles.

“We see MIPS as the gold standard in safety and My PS, which has the system, is one of our most popular helmets — even Charlotte Dujardin wears one,” says managing director Alex Burek. “As I see it, anything we can do to help save lives is worth investing in and we are constantly looking at new technologies.”

The company realises there is still some way to go when it comes to educating riders in hat safety and why it’s so important. “We still see riders choosing their helmet on how it looks, or because of current trends, and this is often at the expense of safety, with some of these helmets only achieving one out of the three standards available.

“MIPS is such an important piece of technology and riders need to be educated in this and safety standards in general,” adds Alex. “We’ll continue to seek investment to provide more helmets with MIPS”.

Champion is also using MIPS, and it is currently installed in 11 of its styles.

“We’ve been looking at the system for 10 years now and initially we struggled with how to test a hat for stability while it was also designed to move,” explains brand director Helen Riley. “We’ve now got around this, and quickly made the decision to get MIPS in as many helmets as possible.”

The company is pleased with the result as it improves the rotational motion and effects of impact significantly.

“It does increase the cost of helmets, and the helmet needs to be good to start with. I don’t see MIPS becoming compulsory for some time as it’s price sensitive and we need to offer consumers a helmet in all price ranges so everyone is protected,” adds Helen.

BETA Safety Week

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