New Helmet Standard Aims to Protect Young Brains

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The Snell Memorial Foundation is publishing a new safety standard designed specifically for off-road helmets for children and teenagers.

Developed in a joint venture between Snell and the FIA Institute, CMH-2007 aims to address the difference in sizes between children's and adults' heads. Most helmets children use are designed for adults, Snell officials say.

Helmets built to the CMH guidelines would offer as much protection as possible within a much lighter, more protective and better-fitting lid. There are two standards &#8212 one for 6- to 11-year-olds, and one for 12- to 15-year-olds. Each would have different weight and size limits.

For years there's been no traction in getting helmet manufacturers interested in a children's standard, says Dr. Daniel Thomas, Snell's director and VP and treasurer of its Board of Directors.

And, while there hasn't been much consumer demand for a child-specific standard, Thomas says the foundation developed the guidelines for a market that obviously exists. Parents and adults are already buying small adult and youth-sized helmets for young riders, he says.

In the United States, off-road motorcycle- and minibike-related injuries to children have increased threefold between 1997 and 2002. Many of these occur with children under 16.

The guidelines were developed after the FIA Institute, the research arm of the global motorsports regulating body, became interested in a helmet standard for the youth karting scene in Europe. Using crash data compiled by epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington, the two agencies developed the CMH-2007 guidelines released Friday.

It's not clear how many helmet manufacturers will embrace the standard, but at least one company has built a prototype helmet to the specs and submitted it for testing, says Snell spokeswoman Hong Zhang. Thomas adds that all it's going to take is one manufacturer jumping into the arena for others to follow &#8212 that or stay out of the market. &#8212 Dennis Johnson