New “crash sensor” polo helmet could save lives

By Charles Taylor on |

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Rider safety is always paramount in all aspects of equestrian – so the work of 23-year-old Northamptonshire undergraduate Robin Spicer does not deserve to go unnoticed.

Visitors to the Loughborough University Design School Show in Leicestershire (June 12-15) would have had an opportunity for detailed assessment of Robin’s prototype – the ARMIS Polo Helmet.

His design for a safer polo helmet – complete with a built-in crash sensor – could save lives by alerting emergency responders to impacts and falls that may cause head injuries.

Robin Spicer - Design School Show - ARMIS

Robin, a final year industrial design and technology undergraduate and regular polo player, has already attracted the attention of leading market retailers and manufacturers with his polo helmet redesign, an idea that could revolutionise helmet safety

The unique design contains a ‘crash sensor’ which Robin plans to link to a smartphone app via long-range bluetooth.

His overall aim is to develop the technology to alert emergency responders to falls and impacts that may require medical attention due to unseen, non-tangible concussions, as well as sending GPS co-ordinates of where the incident has occurred when the rider is training alone.

The prototype was created using a 3D printer and developed for production, comprising a crumple zone made of expanded polystyrene, a flexible peak, and a multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) that moves inside the helmet, mimicking the brain’s own protection system.

The low friction layer reduces the amount of rotational acceleration to the head and minimises the risk of suffering a serious brain injury.

Robin has played polo since the age of six, and he said the helmet has been designed with the British Standards in mind, incorporating safety clips, streamlined air vents and a double layered carbon fibre shell to prevent penetrations.

He was awarded a £350 bursary from the James Dyson Foundation to help bring his project to fruition as part of his end-of-year degree show.

“I’ve fallen off countless times while playing polo and have been knocked unconscious three times, with the most recent incident lasting for over 20 minutes. But I was straight back up on to the horse and playing polo again in a couple of days, which I really shouldn’t have been,” he says.

“With my polo helmet design, I hope to change attitudes and behaviour towards safety in the sport and encourage polo players to seek proper medical attention when suffering a dangerous head impact.

“Even though the rate of injury in polo is low, the severity rate is extremely high. If I can influence other manufacturers and companies to have a re-think about the design of their polo helmets and look at making them safer, then I have achieved my goal.”

Helmet and App

Professor Tracy Bhamra, Dean of Loughborough Design School, added: “Robin’s ARMIS™ Polo Helmet is a fantastic design which has really caught the eye of staff, students and business people.

“The fact that Robin was able to go from a sketch to such a well-developed, high quality prototype in just eight months, shows how dedicated and committed he has been to the course and his future success.”

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