Friday, June 1, 2018

Ask The Athlete: Custom-Built Helmets For Our Kids


By Kara Jackman 

Question: My son was born with a craniofacial condition that affects the shape of his head. 
Where can I buy a custom made bike or sports helmet to fit my son's head?  

Answer:

Great question! Kids need helmets for so many sports including, biking, hockey, baseball, and even rock climbing if they are so inclined. I believe the sky is the limit for all kids with sports, which is why I hope this information on helmets is helpful.

I began the journey to learn more about custom made helmets at everyone's favorite search engine: Google. I also emailed a few companies, but received limited responses (read: no reply). My Google search yielded less-than-stellar information, too. Still, I found one article that gave me hope. This Gizmodo article written in 2014 describes a company called Bell helmets that created helmets using 3D camera and printing technology. The key is finding a helmet company that does custom molding to the head. It appears that Easton - Bell did make these helmets according to the Gizmodo article. This was an exciting use of modern technology. Unfortunately, when I clicked on the links to the Easton - Bell site embedded in the last paragraphs of the article, the links were dead. I emailed them and called, too, but got no response from the company. The project must not have been able to sustain itself. 

So back to the drawing board it was...This time I set the computer aside and picked up the phone. I spoke with Jim Brookshier, CPOLPO, an orthotist. He told me that he can acquire a mold of the head through 3D, laser technology, just like the folks in the Gizmodo article. Typically, Brookshier creates these scans for cranio-remolding helmets, but the same technology can also be used for safety helmets, too. For a bike helmet, the laser scans are then provided to Brookshier's technicians to build the helmet. Someone was doing this work!  


Cranio-remolding helmet Photo Credit: OrthoAmerica

Brookshier says"There are many things to take into consideration when building a helmet of this kind. 'Is there a shunt? What other face or areas of the head are prone to pressure? "What is the extent of the activity and will the helmet need to have a full-face guard? He also advises people to "check their state Department of Transportation guidelines, too." Finally, he recommends speaking with an equipment manager for your local high school or college sports teams to determine how they go about sizing a helmet for baseball, lacrosse, or hockey players. 

Beyond calling the professionals at OrthoAmerica or our friend Jim, the best advice I can give at this point is to go to your hospital's prosthetics and orthotics shop and start asking some questions. Determine whether they can build something specific to your child's head. Also, contact engineering schools or design engineers to get them interested in this need.  Thirdly, bonus points if you can get an orthotist and engineer in the same room to discuss the helmet. The need is there for our craniofacial kids, but also for bike riders, football players, race car drivers, and others that want better fit and protection. 


Thanks for the great question. If you have a sports, athletics, or activity related question, please send us a private message on the CCA Facebook page or to kjackman98 [@] gmail [.] com. 





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