Virginia Tech welcomes cyclists to their helmet safety lab

Team TWENTY 24 partnered with Virginia Tech’s helmet lab to learn about concussion safety

A push for safety on the road to Paris — that's the focus of Virginia Blue Ridge TWENTY24.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Researchers at Virginia Tech are looking at the safety of sports helmets on the market.

High-contact sports such as football or hockey are sports where players can regularly get concussions.

Barry Miller is the director of outreach and business development for Virginia Tech’s helmet lab. He said sports like cycling have just as high a risk.

They’re very tightly, very close when they’re racing and making turns. And there are lots of people there. And they’re moving at high velocities, you know, 25, 30 miles an hour. So there’s a lot of energy there,” Miller said. “And then, you know, certainly when they have accidents, they’re not pretty.”

Cyclists from Virginia’s Blue Ridge’s TWENTY24 team were invited to Virginia Tech to check out the lab and get a hands-on learning experience.

World champion and Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Valente is one of the cyclists.

We were checking out the helmet lab and learning about all the different research that they can do at the helmet lab at Virginia Tech,” Valente said.

Valente has had brushes with concussions in the past due to the sport.

Something that you’re looking out for and trying to avoid and wearing a helmet and wearing a properly fitted helmet and a safe helmet certainly is part of that avoiding,” Valente said.

Virginia Tech’s helmet lab is one of the only ones in the country to examine helmets from multiple different sports.

I think it’s super valuable,” Valente said. “I think there’s a lot that can be learned also from crossing over sports.”

Miller showed the team the differences between helmet designs.

“So, football helmet being probably the most advanced sport helmet on the market. A bike helmet is a little different there,” Miller said. “Single impact, ventilation and lightweight are much more important in that sport versus football where they don’t hit their heads all the time.”

Valente said that opportunities like this with Team TWENTY24 have been crucial to her success.

“This whole team has been pretty much an opportunity for me,” Valente said. “It’s been an opportunity to race on the road, to race mountain bikes, to the racetrack and be supported, to chase the dreams that I want to chase.”

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.