MIPS – helmets inspired by brain fluid to help reduce the impact of a crash

Almost a year on from Michael Schumacher’s tragic accident in Méribel, Loveskiing think it’s about time we talked about MIPS and whether or not we see it as the next step for ski helmet safety. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and was founded in 2001 by five specialists in the biomechanical field from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm who claim to have over 30 years’ experience in the head and neck injury field. Despite being founded well over 10 years ago, MIPS isn’t commonplace in our ski helmets and is only now being seen as a pioneering technology in the field. First of all, we’re going to look at how MIPS actually works according to the guys who created it. Along the way, we’ll try to explain what they say in simpler terms for those of you who don’t understand the technical jargon. We’ll then go on to talk about which companies offer this technology in their helmets and what we think the future holds for MIPS and, ultimately, the safety of our precious noggins.

Three brains: one without a helmet, one with a helmet and a third with a MIPS helmet. Click for the full resolution image.

Three brains: one without a helmet, one with a helmet and a third with a MIPS helmet. Click for the full resolution image.

What they say:

“MIPS sets a new standard in helmet safety. Developed by brain surgeons and scientists to reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head.”

Our explanation:

MIPS is an innovative technology designed by experienced professionals in the head and neck injury field. The idea behind it is that it reduces the extent of the pressure on the brain when an angled impact to the helmet occurs.

What they say:

 “In a helmet with MIPS Brain Protection System the shell and the liner are separated by a low friction layer. When a helmet with MIPS Brain Protection System is subjected to an angled impact, the low-friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head…The secret behind MIPS’ unique, patented technology comes from the human brain. The brain is surrounded by a low-friction cushion of cerebrospinal fluid that protects it by allowing it to slide slightly on impact. MIPS imitates the brain’s way of protecting itself by giving the helmet its own low-friction layer between the outer shell and the liner, which also slides to absorb much of the energy created by an angled blow to the head.”

Our explanation:

Helmets with MIPS technology will have an additional layer inside them (the layer that touches your head). This additional layer is labelled the ‘low-friction layer’. The exterior of the helmet is able to move independently from the so-called low-friction layer, which in the case of a crash absorbs part of the impact, thus reducing the force that is transferred to your brain. The reason for creating this moving layer is explained by our very own brains and the way they function – they have a similar protective layer of fluid that provides a, sort-of, blanket for your brain. MIPS tries to imitate this layer, thereby attempting to provide another protective layer that can absorb part of the energy created when you land on your head.

What they say:

“Angled Impact Tests. Conventional helmets are tested by dropping them vertically onto a flat surface. MIPS is designed to deal with how most accidents occur, with angled impacts to the head. MIPS sets a new standard in helmet safety.”

Our explanation:

MIPS claim that, on the contrary to conventional helmets, helmets using MIPS will provide a higher level of protection because they take into account how most head accidents actually happen.

Here’s a video that we found on the MIPS website explaining the technology:

So which companies currently offer MIPS snow helmets?

As far as we know, the following are the only companies with MIPS snow helmets currently on sale:

  • Lazer – Effect and the Mozo DLX
  • POC – Fornix Backcountry MIPS, Receptor Backcountry MIPS and Fornix Jeremy Jones Ed.
  • Rossignol – Pursuit MIPS and RH2 MIPS
  • Scott – Chase, Quiver and Symbol
  • Sweet Protection – Grimnir, Igniter MIPS, Rooster Corsa, Rooster Discesa, Rooster Discesa R and Trooper MIPS

Does MIPS have a big future in the helmet industry?

Loveskiing have had to think long and hard about this. We believe that MIPS really does sound like a credible idea and is certainly worth trying. Will it reduce the number of life-threatening head injuries in snow-sports? Frankly, who knows? We’re certainly not willing to deliberately engineer an accident in order to test the helmet out… However, if a MIPS helmet is just as comfortable as any other helmet, and costs a similar amount, then why wouldn’t we all wear one for the potential extra protection it may offer?

We just hope the argument is now not whether you should wear a helmet, but rather what type of helmet you should wear. For the first time in this reviewer’s life last year, skiers and boarders wearing helmets were the ones who looked “cool” on the slopes, while those choosing not to wear one were the odd ones out…oh, how the tables have turned! And as for instructors who don’t wear helmets (which, sadly, is still most of them) – claiming that you can’t hear as well is no longer an excuse. It isn’t a problem that you don’t choose to wear one for your personal safety, it’s about the example that you set for all the young children that look up to you as their ‘cool’ teacher.

Because of this, we’re thankful to MIPS and other similar specialists in this field who are managing to shift the debate: it’s no longer a question of wearing a helmet, but rather a question of which type of helmet you should wear.

Do you have an opinion on this? Feel free to comment below! 

We’re hoping to receive some MIPS helmets in the coming months so keep your eyes peeled for our reviews!

Please be aware that we are simply offering our opinion on the technology and our explanation of how we believe it works. We are not liable for any decision you make based on any of our reviews/posts.  

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