Helmet technology has come a long way since this 1960’s half helmet. Thank goodness!

Helmet Tech

What Goes Into Protecting Your Noggin

Basic fact, we cannot live without our heads. It may seem too obvious to state, but we can live without a limb or even all four of them. We can live without a kidney, spleen, appendix, eyes, and various other external and internal parts. But without a head we’re just dead.

With this deliberately extreme observation out of the way, the point is that what is contained within our heads, our brains, is the very center of our existence. All that we perceive of the world, all of our thoughts, memories, talents, and knowledge can be found in the mass of neurons and synapses of our brain. The brain is also the master control for all of our body functions both voluntary and involuntary. In short, we are our brains, it’s the single most important part of our bodies that we must protect from injury.

Because of this imperative to protect our brains, helmets have been a standard item for sports and motorsports activities for many decades now and they have become an icon of safety. In the modern era helmet usage often starts at a young age with bicycle and roller skate helmets on children. Helmets are one of the first safety items mandated by the NHRA in drag racing when your car goes quicker than 13.99 seconds in the quarter mile. But how exactly does a helmet protect our valuable craniums? Why do we need to wear helmets? Activities like auto racing, biking, motorcycling and skiing are ones that involve speed and danger. In an accident, participants can suffer head injuries resulting in permanent paralysis and even death. The best way to protect your head from serious harm while participating in these activities is to wear a helmet.

The first helmet known to history was used by Assyrian warriors about 900 BC. Various metal and leather helmets were used all over the world to provide a measure of protection to soldiers and horsemen from swords and arrows. Helmet technology didn’t evolve much over time. From medieval knights in armor with metal helmets to World War II armies with metal helmets and aviators with leather ones, not much science went into helmet design.

Dr. Charles F. Lombard, a professor and research scientist at the University of Southern California, invented the first modern style helmet with a fiberglass outer shell and an energy absorbing inner liner in 1953 for the US Air Force to protect flight crews. Bell Helmets, founded in 1954 by Roy Richter, began making the first modern helmets for race car drivers in 1954. In 1955, Cal Niday wore a Bell helmet for the Indy 500. On lap 170 Cal hit the wall hard, and he credited the helmet with saving him from much more serious harm.

Roy Richter was a man who was extremely passionate about auto racing. He felt the motorsports industry was lacking in resources for more safety devices, so he began to rearrange his life around making helmets a reality for the people that loved the sport as much as he did. The name of the company originated from the name of the city that Roy was living in at the time of his invention, Bell, California. At first, the facilities were in a small garage-like building and had only a handful of employees. But after a few short months, the company quickly tripled in size as the demand for helmets increased. More and more people were seeing a need for these devices during their participation in high-risk activities, so Bell happily continued to make helmets.