Making Sense of MIPS

If you’ve been shopping snow helmets with RxSport for a few years you may have come across the term MIPS on an increasingly frequent basis. Even if you’re new to these digital shelves you might be asking yourself the question: what is MIPS?

An acronym for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, MIPS is setting new standards for helmet protection. Five biomechanics specialists from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden founded MIPS AB in 2001. Utilising extensive technological and medical expertise focused on preventing head injuries, they developed a system which helps to significantly reduce the risk of brain injury in the event of cranial impact.

How does it work?

In helmets with MIPS installed, the shell and the liner are separated by a low-friction layer. When a MIPS helmet is subjected to an angled impact, the low-friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head. Traditionally helmets have always been tested through vertical impact tests. Helmets are dropped on to flat surfaces or are hit by a weight dropped from height. For this reason have become exceptionally good at reducing the risk of injury from direct impacts, perpendicular to the plane on which the helmet rests on the head.

The low-friction MIPS layer (shown in yellow) helps to dissipate the rotational energy caused by an oblique impact.
The low-friction MIPS layer (shown in yellow) helps to dissipate the rotational energy caused by an oblique impact.

The surprising thing is, however, most impacts do not occur in this fashion. It is rare for impacts to be totally direct, falls to the ground rarely result in a helmet wearer hitting an object head-on. Much more likely is the chance of the wearer being struck by a helmet obliquely, that is, at a non-perpendicular angle. As conventional helmets do not mitigate for these oblique impacts they can cause much more harm to the brain. The strong rotational forces exerted on the brain within the skull can cause concussion.

In order to combat this risk, MIPS aims to mimic the defence mechanism of the brain. The low-friction cushion of cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain within the skull is imitated through the use of a low-friction layer within the helmet between the outer shell and the liner. This layer slides to absorb as much of the energy created by an angled blow as possible, greatly reducing the amount of stress on the brain. The result is a helmet which is capable of offering protection from both direct and angled impacts to the head, something which simply wasn’t readily available commercially until MIPS changed everything. You can now find MIPS technology in the helmets of many major manufacturers, several of which have a home right here at RxSport!

Choosing your MIPS helmet

The Scott Chase helmet - MIPS protection at a competitive price.
The Scott Chase helmet – MIPS protection at a competitive price.

POC, Scott and Sweet Protection all offer MIPS technology in at least a couple of their models. With the selection clocking in various shapes, sizes, colours and prices, MIPS can fall on your radar whatever your tastes and budget. The Scott Chase helmet is one of the manufacturer’s finest offerings. Boasting excellent goggle compatibility, ample ventilation, and an adjustable fitting system, you’re assured a easy ride with the Chase. For younger skiers and boarders the Quiver is one of the few MIPS-equipped youth helmets. Its injection-mould technology keeps the lid feeling lightweight and comfy.

POC’s bold and unfussy designs are one of the most distinctive sights both on the piste and at top level competitions around the world. This Swedish company’s commitment to saving the lives of gravity sport athletes has resulted in helmets of the highest quality rolling off the production line. The POC Fornix Backcountry and Receptor Backcountry each have the MIPS system installed. The Fornix Backcountry utilises Aramid bridge reinforcements on the helmet core to maximise structural integrity and reduce impact energy. Along with this, the Receptor Backcountry contains the RECCO Rescue System which sends out a search signal, alerting recovery teams in the event of an avalanche or other emergency.

The POC Receptor Backcountry MIPS is a winning fusion of minimalist design and exceptional protection.
The POC Receptor Backcountry MIPS is a winning fusion of minimalist design and exceptional protection.

For leading protection you can’t go wrong with any helmet from the Sweet selection. The Igniter and Trooper helmets both come in MIPS variants, adding an extra element of protection to already exceptional lids. If you like the sound of a carbon fibre reinforced shell providing exceptional strength and impact protection then the Grimnir may be the one for you. This GoPro compatible helmet features no fewer than 26 ventilation channels and a hypoallergenic, moisture-wicking liner to keep your head feeling cool and comfortable all day long. With a wealth of technical features and MIPS as standard, that this helmet weighs in at just 500g is nothing short of remarkable.

To learn more about MIPS, visit the project’s official website here. Come back to the blog next week for our Xmas gift guide!