Climbers Survey: Head injuries & helmets

Posted by Dan Middleton, BMC Technical Officer on 04/09/2007
Damaged helmet

Have you ever had a bang to the head, or worse, when climbing? If you have, please take a couple of minutes to complete our quick and easy online survey.

The BMC Technical Committee is running an online survey, with the aim of obtaining information from climbers who have had an impact on the head whilst climbing. The survey itself is designed to be very quick and easy to do, and will only take a couple of minutes to complete.

Go to online survey

What is the objective of the survey?
We're hoping to find out whether current helmet standards and designs provide adequate protection for the different aspects of rock climbing and mountaineering. We're also aiming to find out generally how useful helmets are in preventing injury.

Climbing helmets on sale in the UK must conform to the European Standard EN12492. They may also conform to the optional UIAA 106 standard, which has slightly tougher test requirements.

Helmet standards summary

A quick study of the standards shows that if a helmet is designed to just pass, it will offer a quarter of the protection to the front, sides and rear as it does to the top of the head.  The question is: is this adequate?

The answer hinges on where real life impacts occur during accidents, and the severity of those impacts. We also need to find out if this changes depending on the activity.

It seems logical that in the mountains, where there is more loose rock and ice, that impacts should mostly be on the top of the head and caused by falling objects. Conversely, we'd expect to see a much higher proportion of impacts to different areas of the head when looking at accidents on outcrops, where climber falls are much more common. But are these assumptions true?

Prior to this survey, the majority of accident data came from Mountain Rescue reports. Useful though these are, they only report the details when a team have been called out. There is very little, if anything, recorded about those instances where a climber falls off, and escapes injury but completely trashes their helmet.

This survey should help address that, by giving us information relating the activity to the area of impact. We'll also be able to analyse outcomes which should help us to see if helmets do in fact provide adequate protection.

Findings from the survey will be used to help guide future BMC thinking on helmet standards, and the advice that we give to climbers.



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