A helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head to protect it from injuries.
All helmets attempt to protect the user's head by absorbing mechanical energy and protecting against penetration. Their structure and protective capacity are altered in high-energy impacts. Beside their energy-absorption capability, their volume and weight are also important issues, since higher volume and weight increase the injury risk for the user's head and neck. Anatomical helmets adapted to the inner head structure were invented by neurosurgeons at the end of the 20th century.
Helmets used for different purposes have different designs. For example, a bicycle helmet must protect against blunt impact forces from the wearer's head striking the road. A helmet designed for rock climbing must protect against heavy impact, and against objects such as small rocks and climbing equipment falling from above. Practical concerns also dictate helmet design: a bicycling helmet should be aerodynamic in shape and well ventilated, while a rock climbing helmet must be lightweight and small so that it does not interfere with climbing.
Some helmets have other protective elements attached to them, such as a face visors or goggles or a face cage, and ear plugs and other forms of protective headgear, and a communications system. Sports helmets may have an integrated metal face protector (face cage).
- Baseball batting helmets have an expanded protection over the ear, which protects the jaw from injury.
- Motorcycle helmets often have flip-down face screens for rain and wind protection, and they may also have projecting visors to protect the eyes from glare.
- Hard hats for construction workers are worn mainly to protect the wearer from falling objects such as tools.
- Helmets for riot police often have flip-down clear visors and thick padding to protect the back of the neck.
- Modern firefighter's helmets protect the face and back of the head against impact, fires and electricity, and can include masks, communication systems, and other accessories.
- Welding helmets protect the eyes and face and neck from flash burn, ultraviolet light, sparks and heat. They have a small window, called a lens shade, through which the welder looks at the weld; for arc welding this window must be much darker than in blowtorch goggles and sunglasses.
- People with some medical conditions must wear a helmet to protect the brain, due to a gap in the braincase, e.g. because of cleidocranial dysostosis or in separated craniopagus twins.
Types of synthetic fiber used to make some helmets: aramid, twaron.
In Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries gamekeepers, for head protection in fights against poachers, sometimes wore helmets (perhaps more describable as thick bump caps) made of straw bound together with cut bramble.
See also: Helmet
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