Nicholi Rogatkin took a huge fall back at the 2015 Red Bull Rampage wearing an early RHEON Labs prototype.
Developed by our collective of cutting-edge scientists, engineers and designers for the last 15 years, RHEON LABS is integrating scientific research from London’s Imperial College into everyday helmet technology.
RHEON is soft and flexible in its natural state, yet immediately and instinctively stiffens upon impact.
It’s this adaptive quality which makes RHEON technology so unique, intelligently reacting to dissipate the energy of an impact at an astounding rate. Our patented re-entrant geometries control this energy which would otherwise be transferred to your head.
Unlike conventional helmet protection, RHEON changes its behaviour depending on the severity or direction of an impact, stretching under pressure to protect you from a variety of different directions and force levels.
So why is this so important? Things are changing in the world of helmets. The awareness of concussion is considerably bigger than it was even just 5 years ago, and a dialogue as to whether current helmets are doing an adequate job has started to gain momentum.
Linear vs Rotational impacts
There are two main challenges in preventing Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBIs), such as diffuse axonal injuries and concussions:
- Reducing linear acceleration
- Reducing rotational acceleration
Linear concussions are the result of direct impacts where the head moves forward violently, causing damage to either the frontal lobe, occipital lobe, or both.
Rotational concussions on the other hand, come as a result of angular or rotational accelerations causing the brain to spin on its axis relative to the skull, causing brain structures to tear.
Research shows that brain rotation is the key concern and cause of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury when the head undergoes a real-world impact. Despite this, rotational impacts are still not assessed consistently by current helmet standards. Most accredited test labs only assume a 90-degree linear impact condition, completely omitting rotational acceleration.
This is where RHEON LABS is aiming to support the helmet industry so that athletes like Nicholi can continue to push the limits, time and time again, with the confidence that they are better protected from real-world crashes of any kind.
Working with Kali
Back in 2014 Kali gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our RHEON technology in their latest Shiva helmet. The results were hugely promising, reaffirming to us the potential of our ambitious aims when we first started out. RHEON LABS had migrated from its laboratory roots into the commercial world of sports equipment, where it could start to make its mark on the helmet industry.
As a collective of scientists and engineers, rigorous testing forms the very foundation of our existence. Driven by countless hours of collecting and analysing data, values which are strongly aligned with those of Kali.
We tested Kali’s Shiva both with and without our RHEON technology in impact lab conditions. Using an integrated Hybrid III Head form attached to a linear impact rig we were able to mimic the inertia of the human body. High-speed video was then used to correlate head form kinematics with helmet position.
What researchers found was a significant reduction in peak rotational acceleration, of up to 20%. This figure becomes even more important when interpreting the right-hand graph below. Where observable concussions form an S curve as rotational acceleration increases.
This means that even a small reduction in acceleration results in a significant reduction in the probability of potential concussion from over 60% to 10% after integrating RHEON technology into the helmet. Add to this a 30% reduction in peak linear acceleration and the test results become compelling.
Real world data
Nicholi Rogatkin’s 2015 run is etched into Red Bull Rampage history as one of the biggest crashes since its inception at the turn of the century. The fact that he rode away is a testament to his athleticism and a very healthy dose of luck. However, without overemphasising our claims, it probably has a good deal to do with the integrated RHEON parts he had in his helmet on the day.
Rogatkin was the first Kali rider to run a helmet integrated with RHEON on the FMB World Tour – the resultant prototype from tests back in 2014. Kali’s CEO and lead engineer Brad Waldron had glued the strips into Nicholi’s Shiva by hand just a couple of months before Rampage was set to begin.
Whilst no one thought Nicholi would crash as he did that day, this type of real-world data is critical to us in making helmets better. Nicholi’s crash provided us with invaluable information to help improve our understanding of RHEON in real-world crash scenarios.
We set about recreating Rogatkin’s crash as accurately as possible in our test facility back at Imperial College. The angle and position were adjusted to emulate the crash exactly. Whilst the speed was derived from video footage and screenshot analysis. All rotational testing was carried out in the same lab, on the same test instruments and by the same operators. Check the calculations out here.
Once again the results were significant. The crash reconstruction impact tests highlighted a 24% reduction in peak linear acceleration and a 20% reduction in peak rotational acceleration at 6.1m/s. Reducing Nicholi’s probability of concussion from a near certainty down by over 33%.
What’s more, Nicholi’s crash highlighted another fundamental flaw in most conventional EPS helmet protection: only providing protection from a singular impact before it is compromised and fails. This is why helmet manufacturers suggest you return your helmet after a big fall. This is of particular significance when we recognise the repeated impacts that Nicholi undertook during his crash.
Where RHEON again differentiates itself, is through its ability to instantly re-heal – providing protection time and time again. Not only does RHEON protect better than conventional helmet materials on initial impact, but it provides this same protection for each and every impact, where others can simply fail.
Significant results in a test lab are encouraging. However, where we primarily concern ourselves is with crashes like Nicholi’s, in order to build our understanding of how impacts happen in real-world scenarios, not just in controlled labs. We feel it is our mission to not only make helmets better but to shift the industry’s understanding of impact protection, to protect from a wide range of impacts not just to pass test standards.