Since 2011, Virginia Tech researchers have been providing unbiased helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed decisions when
purchasing helmets. The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of research on head impacts in sports and identify which
helmets best reduce concussion risk. This work is done as part of Virginia Tech’s service mission and is 100% independent of any
funding or influence from helmet manufacturers.
Why rate helmets?
Although all helmets currently being sold satisfy minimum safety requirements specified by standards organizations, not all helmets
are created equal. Two helmets that pass the same standard may offer different levels of impact protection. Prior to the Virginia Tech
Helmet Ratings, consumers had no way of knowing which helmets were better than others. Given that helmets are a safety product, this
information should be available to consumers.
What do the helmet ratings mean?
Simply stated, the helmet ratings identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk. More stars equate to better protection, with 5
stars representing the best available helmets. We encourage athletes to get out of helmets with low ratings and into 4 and 5 star
How are ratings determined for helmets?
Through a series of impact tests, helmets are evaluated using 2 fundamental concepts: 1) each test is weighted based on how frequently
players experience them and 2) helmets that lower head acceleration reduce concussion risk. The impact conditions and weightings are
sport-specific, and inclusive of the broad range of head impacts that athletes are likely to experience. These methods have been
published as peer-reviewed articles in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
Front Boss Impact
Will 5 star helmets prevent me from sustaining concussions?
No helmet is concussion-proof. Any athlete can sustain a head injury, even with the very best head protection. The helmet ratings
identify the helmets that best reduce your chances of sustaining a concussion. With that stated, helmets are only one piece of the
equation to minimizing concussion risk. Rule changes and coaching proper technique can result in fewer high-risk head impacts, and are
perhaps most important. Having the best available head protection for the remaining head impacts further reduces risk.
Youth Football Helmet Ratings
Youth football helmets have been rated using the STAR evaluation system. Virginia Tech impact tests evaluate a helmet's ability to
reduce linear and rotational acceleration of the head resulting from a range of head impacts that youth football players might see on
the field. Virginia Tech's lab tests are based on data collected directly from 10 to 14 year old youth football players that wore
helmets equipped with sensors.
Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk for these impacts compared to helmets with less stars. While there are
some differences in impact performance within groups, other factors such as cost, fit, and comfort should be considered when
purchasing a helmet.