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Tech Review—Stroud Safety Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint

Posted By: Steve Turner

Tech ReviewStroud Safety Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint


Written by Steve Turner

Photography by the author and courtesy of Stroud Safety


With hundreds or thousands of horsepower available, a race car can deliver incredible performances. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. In an instant, traction gives way. A clean pass turns into a wild ride. The sudden impact as the car comes to a halt can cause damage to the car. And, even if all the safety equipment is on point, the driver can still experience the kind of g-forces that can have a negative impact.


The result of that impact can be a concussion. While they can be mild, in more severe instances they can result in a loss of memory, muscle control, and balance. They can affect speech, balance, and more. We hear more about these injuries in non-motorsports, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a concern.


“Motorsports is notorious for being terrible at self-reporting injuries. Aside from the top 1 percent of the sport we do not have the team doctors, load sensors, or concussion protocols many of the stick-and-ball sports have,” John Gentry, Sales Manager at Stroud Safety, said. “We believe that the concussion issue is every bit as big of a problem in racing, it just does not have the reporting to build the data sets.”


Over the years there have been innovations in helmet design and the implementation of head and neck restraints at the faster levels of racing, all of which have enhanced safety. However, the growing knowledge about the serious nature of head injuries pushed innovation in this area. 


“There was a group of racers who were crashing enough to know a better mousetrap needed to be made. One of the engineers had a background in suspension development for Supercross and combining our own crash and concussion data with all the research being done in stick-and-ball sports on head injuries we realized that a suspension system for the head was needed ASAP,” Gentry said. “The helmet companies had been left up to the job, but the thickness of a helmet leaves such a small window to absorb energy. We started mocking up designs and realized we could double or triple that window to dampen forces and we could do it with hydraulics that could cycle thousands of times, while the foam in helmets can be permanently damaged after a single hit.”


To that end, Stroud partnered with Meru Safety on the co-branded Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint, which incorporates an innovative Inertia Dampening System design to lessen the force experienced by a driver in the event of a crash or other impact.


“Traditional restraints have a rigid structure that, aside from belt stretch, does not offer much give or absorption in an impact,” Gentry explained. “Our brace has a hinged headrest with a hydraulic shock absorber that allows us to progressively slow down the head in an impact; aimed to reduce the deceleration forces through the head.”


The Inertia Dampening System’s shock absorber deploys speed-sensitive valving to progressively dampen impacts small and large, even bumps and the sudden snap of a parachute deployment. It not only slows the time to the conclusion of an impact, but it reduces acceleration from an angle as well. It lessens concussion-causing forces as well as upper neck tension.


“Our brace uses a sliding tether that allows you to look side to side without impairment. Our shock absorber has speed-sensitive valving so that at a low speed, like a driver looking around in the cockpit at gauges or down at your belts the headrest will move with limited resistance,” Gentry elaborated. “But as the impact intensity increases, so will the resistance. These features allow us to maintain driver comfort under normal racing conditions, absorb the smaller impacts from rough tracks, wheelies, parachutes, and small crashes, and then still be able to protect against the massive 70g and higher hits.”


In those crash tests, the Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint reduced impacts significantly, showing that this design can greatly improve racer safety.


“The restraints underwent rigorous testing including crash and flame testing to receive SFI 38.1 certification. Our crash testing was done at the CAPE Crash Testing Facility in Indiana with a combination of head-on and 30-degree impacts all at 70g. While the impact was 70g to the crash testing sled, many of the data points in the crash test dummies' extremities will read exponentially higher due to the whipping effect,” Gentry said. “With our brace, we were able to lower the forces from the back of your head through your eyes on the Z axis to just 53g taking several hundred pounds off the brain. Since launching the brace we have had drivers use it in various types of cars from Rallycross, Drag Racing, Sprint Cars, Baja, Formula cars, and more, all with positive feedback.”


While speed is the primary focus of any racing endeavor, improving racer safety is a concern both during an incident and long after. This is especially true with head trauma, the effect of which can compound with repeated injuries.


“Anytime there’s even a small blow to the head you will experience some form of trauma. Your body creates a protein to try and heal the brain tissue. The catch is this protein is supposed to work as a one-time fix like a temporary support structure. But after repeated trauma, those proteins begin to build up and begin to block and clog your neuro-pathways,” Gentry said. “It has a similar effect to pouring wet concrete down a drain. The bigger the impact the more proteins have to be produced to mend the brain, but many small impacts can be every bit as detrimental, if not worse, than large impacts. Our unit is directly designed to combat these small and large blows to the head, so anyone wearing our restraint can feel confident that they are doing the most to stay safe and healthy in the long run.”’


Though the Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint greatly enhances safety, its hinged collar and headrest feature a sliding mount that allows freedom of motion, combined with its speed-sensitive valving allows for freedom of movement. That is especially beneficial as the latest safety regulations require a head and neck restraint for vehicles capable of exceeding 150 mph in top speed or 7.49 seconds in elapsed time.


“First off, you can never have too much safety equipment. Anywhere you can add places to absorb energy in an impact is like money in the bank for a rainy day. Our brace does help absorb many of the day-to-day non-crashing forces that the lower-level driver still goes through like wheelies, parachutes, etc., which will help relieve soreness and some of the brain trauma that are associated with repeated micro impacts,” Gentry added. “But here is food for thought, the maximum velocity of our crash testing sled for a 70g impact was 38 mph. While it’s rare to see 70g to the driver at crashes well over 200 mph, every single race car goes over the 38 mph velocity from our testing. Almost all impacts in racing are glancing blows, not head-on impacts, and the cars crumble and disperse energy unlike our rigid crash testing sled; but even at low speed, it shows the possibility of a massive impact.”


So, as you look to upgrade the safety of your racing program, it is worth looking into the latest technology offered by the Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint, as staying healthy ensures you can keep racing.


Stroud Safety partnered with Meru Safety on the innovative Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint, which delivers enhanced concussion protection thanks to a hinged collar and headrest design with a hydraulic shock absorber.


Weighing in at just two pounds, the Inertia Carbon Fiber Frontal Head Restraint, the sliding mount of the Inertia Dampening System allows for a free range of motion and functionality in a wide range of seating positions.


The SFI 38.1-approved unit’s integral shock absorber, which benefits from speed-sensitive valving, controls movement to reduce force through the head on the Z axis to 53 g-forces in a 70 g-force impact.


A typical restraint protects the head by stopping it during an impact, while the IDS system slows the stoppage of the head during the impact to protect the brain. It instantly slows the impact and tames the angular acceleration forces on the head and brain.



Stroud Safety

(405) 632-2022

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