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Airbag Innovation Prevents Traumatic Brain Injury

 September 28, 2016

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

As care managers for disabled individuals, technology aimed at preventing injury or saving lives always grabs our attention. One glance at the Hövding and our imaginations ran wild. One need look no further than this video to see a gorgeous model stare coolly into the camera as Hövding, the airbag for urban cyclists, bursts from her collar in a tenth of a second.  Watch a little longer and you will see this technological achievement in action. How does it work? You wonder.  Is it more effective than the old, familiar bike helmet? You ask.  Most importantly, how does it protect its users from TBI, or traumatic brain injury? You ponder.  Read a little longer and we will provide you with all the important details.

TBI Prevention

There is no cure for traumatic brain injury. Thus, all emphasis must be placed on prevention. So much has already been written as warning. After all, bicycle riding is by no means the only risky activity that humans are willing to put their brains at risk for. Here we have a brief history of warnings regarding TBI, featuring a list of familiar safety measures preceding the Hövding:

  • Before driving a motor vehicle, fasten your seat belt.
  • Before driving a motor vehicle, secure small children in a safety seat or booster.
  • Before driving a motor vehicle, refrain from drug or alcohol use.
  • Before riding any open unrestrained vehicle such as a bicycle, motorcycle, scooter or snowmobile, wear a helmet.
  • Before participating in contact sports, wear a helmet.
  • Before skiing, snowboarding, skating or skateboarding, wear a helmet.

Aside from preventing the fall or crash all together, the clear safety measure of choice has always been the helmet. So how does a cutting edge innovation like the Hövding measure up to that tried and true headgear?

The Airbag Vs. The Helmet 

A helmet is a helmet. This has been the case for quite some time. In other words, there really has never been much room for improvement when it comes to their design. While they have performed reasonably well, it is hard to downplay how revolutionary an idea placing an airbag inside of a collar truly is. Still, there is marketing to be done. In this even more expensively produced video, Hövding goes so far as to question the effectiveness of cycle helmets and commissions Swedish insurance company Folksam to perform tests that prove the superiority of the airbag[1].

Tests show that the airbag has three times the shock-absorbing capacity of the traditional helmet. In terms of percentages, accidents involving the helmet have been known to have a fatality rate of 30%. The rate of traumatic brain injury is as high as 90%. In the case of the airbag, that rate drops to 2% while the fatality rate is practically non-existent.

The models sporting the Hövding

are reminders that it was first seen as a fashion statement. Yet how many fashion statements feature a “black box” that records crash data? That’s right, just like in an airplane. Hövding uses that information to continue to improve the product’s performance. The company is truly doing everything it can to ensure that the introduction of its brainchild is every bit as significant as the invention of the original airbag in 1952. So how does it work?

How Does the Hövding Airbag Work? 

For more scientific detail, we recommend you reference the earlier videos or visit their website yourself. However, if your curiosity is as piqued as ours was when we first heard about it, we would be remiss if we didn’t at least touch upon the cooler features of this awesome device.

  • Fabric: First off, you can’t claim to replace the hard helmet with “soft” fabric and not provide further explanation. The Hövding is made of ultra-strong nylon that won’t rip when inevitably scraped along the road.
  • Shape: The shape of protective covering is obviously important because it determines the coverage area. Any of us can more or less imagine the area a helmet covers. Take a look at the fully extended airbag and it clearly covers more of the wearer’s skull, yet still leaves the field of vision wide open. The airbag takes shape immediately after being filled by a gas inflator and holds the shape long enough to withstand multiple impacts. Then, it deflates.
  • Sensors: In short, this airbag is able to “detect” an accident thanks to an algorithm the company developed which compares the kinetics of cycling accidents with the normal movements of bicycle riding. That’s right, the airbag can tell the difference and reacts accordingly.

If you were to explore our own web site, you may not find that we are responsible for creating technology. We don’t sell a product, per se. However, we do cultivate an identity as care managers that hinges upon a willingness to go to great lengths, form dynamic partnerships and discover new products, all in the name of advocating for our clients. Our record already shows a great awareness of the need to protect against traumatic brain injury. We only hope that our enthusiasm rubs off while also sharing new and relevant information.

[1] https://gizmodo.com/is-an-airbag-for-your-head-really-safer-than-a-bike-hel-1557666518

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