With the tragic death of Belgian professional cyclist Wouter Weylandt (Left.) in this year’s Giro d’Italia.
Then just last week Columbian rider Juan Maurcio Soler was left with serious head injuries after a crash in the Tour of Switzerland.
I am wondering just how much protection does a cycling helmet really give?
The helmet rule for professional cyclists was brought by the UCI in 2003 following the death of Andrei Kivlev during the Paris-Nice race.
Since then deaths of professional cyclists while racing have doubled, so where is the protection that helmets are supposed to give a rider?
According to these figures, in the decade that was the 1950s, 8 pro riders were killed while racing. In the ten years that followed, the 1960s, 4 lost their lives; another 4 during the 1970s, and 5 in the 1980s. 3 died in pro races in the 1990s.
However, in the first decade of the New Millennium, the 2000s, 10 professional cyclists died during completion. Two have died already in this decade when we are only half way through the second year. What happened? Helmets were made mandatory in 2003 to protect riders.
Two of the riders, Brett Malin (2003) and Bob Breedlove (2005) died while riding in the Race Across America (RAAM) and were struck by motor vehicles, not by a fall usually associated with racing. But eliminating these two from the list still leaves 8, double the number that died each decade in the preceding 40 years.
I never really considered Professional Cycle Racing to be a particularly dangerous sport, but close to one death a year is not acceptable. Isn’t it about time the UCI and the professional cyclists themselves started to look into the effectiveness of helmets?
The UCI is quick to enact regulation for every other aspect of the sport, why not do something really useful and set some safety standards for bicycle helmets that would benefit us all.
It seems to me that there is too much emphasis on the part of manufacturers in designing something that looks cool rather than do what it is supposed to do, and that is protect a rider in the event he or she should hit their head.
I see two main problems; the outer shell is weak so it splits open on impact, and the polystyrene foam is too dense, it doesn’t absorb the impact. After all it is the helmet that is supposed to get crushed in a crash, not the rider’s skull.