How to Choose a Roller Skate Helmet

Before I guide you on how to choose a roller skating helmet, I’ll tell you a short story.  Lynn is new to roller skating. She loves everything roller skating in the local park has to offer her fitness-craving self. So, she started watching YT videos on how to drop in, but the worst happened on the very first day she tried dropping in as a new skater.

Do you know what happened? Her feet missed the coping completely, and she fell backwards into the transition. Her back took part of the fall, and the back of her dome took the rest of the impact as she slammed it on the concrete.

The sudden impact jostled her noggin around bad — she ended up with whiplash. It was really, really nasty. Now, do you think our fictitious new skater Lynn would still be skating today if she’d not worn a proper roller skating helmet on her brainy melon? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Roller Skating Falls and Injuries Are Common

Roller skating falls and injuries don’t happen every day, but they sure happen. A growing heap of evidence shows that roller skating injuries have been happening for years. The earliest study I saw found that out of 202 roller skating injuries, 130 of the falls ended up being fractures while the rest (72) were what the data analysts called soft tissue injuries.

Analysis of the roller-skating accident numbers revealed that the majority of the mishaps (47%) affected the wrist. Elbow injuries were the second most common roller skating injuries (14%) followed by ankle injuries at 10%. But even though ankle injuries were the least likely to occur, ankle fractures were the leading reason for surgical operations.

Who Falls Most Often Rollerskating?

I suppose you think that inexperienced and new roller skaters are more likely to take a fall than anyone else. And you’re right because the majority of all roller skating mishaps (77%) according to the research above happened to inexperienced skaters.

Surprisingly, Advanced Roller Skaters Are More Likely to Need Surgery

But the story takes an interesting twist. Even though more experienced roller skaters fell less often compared to neophytes, an injury sustained by an experienced roller skater was two times more likely to have them wheeled into the OR.

What does that surprising revelation tell us? It’s that no matter how advanced your skating skills are, there’s always a good chance you could end up spending tons of money and time receiving treatment after a bad fall. So, take care and wear protection.

The same analysis found that female roller skaters were more likely to get an injury compared to their male counterparts. But that’s not the whole truth. Because while male skaters were less likely to be injured, they were three times more likely to have an operation.

Now on to the most profound discovery from that study: a staggering 90 percent of the skaters had no protection. Think about it — only 1 in 10 skaters wore protection.

More Recent Roller Skating Injury Studies

The study whose findings I presented above was actually carried out nearly 40 years ago. So, what’s changed since then as far as safety roller skating?

In the year 2000, an analysis of 283 roller skating injuries data that had occurred in 1996 was completed.  The numbers showed that there was no statistical difference between roller skating and inline skating injury patterns.

One finding that intrigued me was that the accidents happened at low speed. If you thought mishaps happen only to fast-rolling skaters, well, think again.

But does putting on a good helmet or padding up mean you won’t get hurt? No, wearing protective gear doesn’t guarantee safety rollerskating. Actually, 29% of survey respondents wore protective equipment.

So, wearing protective pads and a helmet doesn’t help, right? Wrong! Because the analysis found that skaters who wore wristguards saw a significantly low injury rate than their counterparts who skated without proactive gear.

What a 4-year Analysis of Roller Skating Numbers Found

A 2000 roller-skating accidents study in Denmark covering 399 skating injuries revealed that 44.61% of the respondents (178) had suffered wrist injuries. That is 2.39% fewer accidents than were recorded in 1982, but a staggering 125 of the injuries were wrist fractures! In fact, roller skating fractures over that 4-year period accounted for 17% of the total number of wrist fractures registered.

But that doesn’t surprise me one bit given that 67% of the injured skaters (most were children) in the survey wore zero protection. It seems like parents should start encouraging their kids to wear roller skating protection.

The findings of another roller skating accidents study in Demark didn’t deviate much from what earlier studies had found. The majority of the injuries (45%) affected the wrists and metacarpal bones.

Some Roller Skaters Today Don’t Wear Protection

There’s always someone in the park or out on the streets roller skating without protection. Haven’t you seen some skaters dropping in without a helmet? We also keep seeing pro roller skaters teaching really cool stuff on Youtube with zero protection.

Maybe they’re so good and don’t feel the need to helmet up or put on protective roller skating pads. But evidence suggests that being a really good skater, while it can keep accident numbers low, can still lead to disastrous endings.

Some Skaters Don’t Want to Look Like a Dork

I get it. You don’t want to look like a dork. Everyone wants to look smart and cool. But none of that matters when you’re in the OR because you fell hard and your head was 100% vulnerable.

I don’t think anyone ever judges people out on the streets and in skate parks for wearing a helmet. In fact, quite the contrary — people respect skaters who care about personal safety. They’re are like this guy/girl is a responsible person.

Remember, your safety comes first. Concussions happen, and they can completely change how you experience life — forever. I’ve yet to fall that bad even though I’ve taken my fair share of nasty spills.

What is it Like to Have a Concussion from a Rollerskating Fall?

But I know someone who took a tumble and hit their head real bad. They got severe head injuries, and it was many months before they regained their pre-concussion wellness levels. The person told me they’d pretty much lost every ounce of motivation.

Also, they had these headaches that just wouldn’t go away. And, they slept an awful lot, and getting out of bed in the morning proved to be extremely hard. Even worse, the person isn’t roller skating anymore mostly because they become someone else altogether. They become someone who fears to venture outdoors on wheels because…that’s too risky. Poor guy.

Helmets Aren’t Always Sexy, But…

You sure don’t want to end up like that unfortunate skater, do you? Be like a girl I skate with who keeps saying that safety is sexy. She puts her money where her mouth is and wears the sexiest helmets for roller skating that works well with her accessories. But while style matters, you must never regard it as being more important than safety, because it is not.

How to Choose the Right Roller Skating Helmet

So, what do you look for when shopping for a good roller skate helmet? In the roller skate guide below, I take you through what you need to know before buying.

1. Helmet Fit, Size, Comfort, and Shape

Fit is the most critical thing when it comes to choosing a helmet for indoor or outdoor roller skating. I’d rather wear a less stylish lid that didn’t have fancy helmet technologies but fit like a glove than a features-rich helmet with a poor fit. So, learn how to correctly measure your dome and use a model-specific size chart to calculate your size.

choosing roller skate helmets
This is how a good roller skate helmet should fit

Helmet manufacturers don’t always offer their products in the exact same sizes. Medium in one helmet brand may be Small or Large in a different brand. Reading specific model reviews can help you understand how the lid might fit you, whether it runs large or small. Or whether it’s rounder, more oval, or somewhere between oval and round.

Helmet Shape

Some helmets such as those from Protec have a relatively round shape. If you wear a helmet from this brand and you have a more oval head, it’ll likely fit awkwardly leaving weird gaps on the sides of your head. Also, a round helmet on an oval head tends to cause pressure points at the back or front because it’s extremely tight in those areas.

Other helmets such as Triple Eight helmets provide a more oval fit while others provide a round/oval shape, which is where most American heads live. If the helmet shape you choose your roller skates with is out of alignment with your head shape, the fit won’t be perfect.

If a roller skate helmet fits right, it lies level on your head and doesn’t move too much up and down or side to side. A well-fitted skate helmet doesn’t fly off of your head when danger rears its ugly head.

Dome-shaped and Performance Roller Skate Helmets

Most roller skate helmets tend to be dome-shaped half-shell helmets. These are what most people like to call skate-style helmets, commuter helmets, city helmets, urban helmets, or compact helmets.

Performance skate helmets are also available. Performance-style skate helmets focus on aerodynamics and ventilation than protection, but they’re still protective. These aren’t beginner lids, they’re for skaters who are fairly good at the sport and don’t expect to fall but still want adequate protection if they do.

2. Roller Skate Helmet Weight

You want a stylish, well-fitting, protective roller skate helmet that won’t feel like a million concrete blocks on your neck. If a helmet strains your neck too much, chances are you won’t want to wear it all the time. You’ll tend to wear it some of the time, but it’s not like you can predict disasters. You want a lightweight roller skate helmet that doesn’t sacrifice its protective abilities.

3. Features and Specs

Look at the following features and specs when buying a roller skate helmet.

The Outer Shell (Offers Basic Protection)

Roller skate helmets are high-impact helmets thanks to the ABS-plastic/EPS outer shell. The density in the shell material varies from helmet model to model. The majority of skate helmets today have pretty low densities because who wants a heavy helmet that kills the neck?

This shell is designed to absorb small impacts, but when subjected to a big impact, it expands in reaction to the force. That said, the outer EPS shell provides pretty much basic protection. What does the heavy lifting is the layer underneath the shell, the EPS foam or the EPP foam layer.

Inner Protective Layer (Built to Protect Heads)

Most helmets of any kind feature an inner layer of crushable foam called EPS or Expanded Polystyrene. This protective foam looks like Styrofoam. When you fall or slam into some car, it’s this foamy protective layer underneath the outer shell that got your head covered. This protective crushable liner collapses into itself, absorbing the skull integrity-threatening impact energies from the crash.

But pretty much all roller skate helmets and other helmets have an EPS layer for impact absorption, some use EPP foam for protection against impacts. EPP means Expanded Polypropylene.

EPS Foam Helmets vs. EPP Foam Skate Helmets

What’s the difference between an EPP foam helmet and an EPS foam helmet? The main difference is that an EPS foam liner helmet is a single-use helmet. Once you fall wearing a lid with an EPS liner, the foam crushes in and loses most of its protective abilities. That is, EPS foam sucks at absorbing repetitive impacts.

In comparison, an EPP foam helmet can be used after a hit in some cases because it’s a multi-impact performance lid. The liner inside this type of helmet doesn’t deform permanently from impact energies. Some POC bike helmets are multi-impact helmets. Most of the roller skate helmets on the market today are single-use crushable foam liner helmets.

Fit Pads/Padding

Many helmet companies offer thin fit pads and thick pads so that you can customize your fit however you want. If, for example, you received a skate helmet that fits you a little more snugly than you’d like, you can use thinner pads. And vice versa, you can remove thinner pads for thicker ones if the fit feels a little loose. Triple Eight helmets win out in the replacement fit pads department.

Usually, these pads attach to the inside of the helmet through Velcro. Aside from helping with helmet fitment, the internal padding may also help soak up sweat and boost comfort.

Chinstraps

The chinstraps should be strong and durable. Also, they shouldn’t chafe your chin, and they should stay in place once secured. Most importantly, good chinstraps don’t let the helmet fly away leaving your noggin vulnerable to collision or fall impacts.

Also, check how the strap works. Is it easy to use and adjust for a better fit? You want adjustable straps that’ll work well in case you need a bit more or less slack at some point.

Fit Adjustment Dial

Some one-size-fits-all roller skate helmets have a knob-like dial at the back. This fit dial enables you to adjust fit to a comfortable place.

4. Skate Helmet Safety Certifications and Standards

Can you use a bike helmet for roller skating? Yes, you can as long as it’s got the right style and is designed to offer adequate coverage at the back of the head.

However, many skate-style bike helmets offer the CPSC certification but not the ASTMF1492 skate safety standard. You want to buy a helmet with ASTM 1492 certification on top of the CPSC certification.

In most cases, roller skate helmets are dual-certified. Typically, these helmets offer both the CPSC bike standards and ASTMF1492 skate standards. So, be sure to check your lid once it arrives. You should see a sticker on the straps or inside of the helmet stating its safety certifications.

What about the EN 1078 safety certification? This is an EU-focused safety standard that parallels the CPSC standard.  But a skate helmet that meets CPSC safety standards offers slightly better protection because it’s designed in accordance with more stringent safety requirements.

5. Helmet Technologies

As long as a roller skate helmet has a functional EPS liner/EPP liner and it’s properly certified, it’s good. But there are other modern technologies to keep an eye on. One such helmet tech is the now fiercely-famous MIPS technology. MIPS is the short form for Multi-Directional Protection System.

This protection technology works by causing the helmet to make certain sliding movements relative to the head. MIPS helmets typically cost more than comparable non-MIPS versions. You probably don’t need MIPS protection. However, if the promised extra layer of protection against angular impacts gives you peace-of-mind, definitely fork over for this technology.

Then there are WaveCel and SPIN helmet technologies. Think of these two as types of MIPS-like technologies that focus on tackling rotational impacts.

WaveCel has a collapsible cellular structure that does the protection job by creating what’s called crumpled zones. WaveCel also absorbs other impact energies besides rotational forces.

SPIN is like MIPS, but it relies on silicon-rich pads that move in multiple directions as they attempt to absorb oblique crash impacts.

A roller skating helmet that offers basic EPS foam protection sure does the job. Otherwise, they’d not be selling them, right?

6. Price and Brand

Some skate helmets especially the uncertified ones can cost as little as $25 or even cheaper. But I’ve also seen certified helmets at that price, so don’t shop with your eyes closed. That said, you should be able to find a decent certified roller skate helmet for between $50 and $120. And if you do any kind of downhill roller skating, be sure to invest in a good, fully certified full-face helmet.

In terms of brands, there are tons of skate brands out there. Some of the better-known major helmet brands include Protec, Triple 8, and S 1. Though lesser-known brands, Thousand, TSG, Bern, Bell, and Smith are all trusted brands by all kinds of skaters.

Protec helmets are known for their protectiveness and rounder shape. Triple 8 helmets are more oval-ish than round, and Bern helmets are known for their injection-molded, fit dial-operated, ultra-lightweight snowboarding helmets.

In the end, though, you’re going to need to buy and use a roller skate helmet from whichever brand to learn how well it fits and performs.

7. Helmet Maintenance

Ask yourself, how easy is it to clean this helmet? You want a helmet that’s easy to clean. You want a helmet that lets you unvelcro the internal pads soo that you can give it a nice and quick wipedown with some sponge. You want washable inner padding. Are the buckles and straps easy to clean as well? Learn how to clean a helmet here. 

After you clean your brain bucket, you’ll want to stow it away. Learn how to store helmets here. 

Roller Skate Helmet FAQs

Do I Have to Wear a Roller Skate Roller Skating?

No, U.S. federal law doesn’t require roller skaters to wear a helmet. But if roller skating accidents data over the years is anything to go by, using a certified helmet should be a good idea. Admittedly, there’s no guarantee that even the best helmets prevent concussions. But a good skate helmet can help counteract the massive impacts known to cause severe brain injuries and skull fractures. That’s why many skate rinks require the use of a helmet during practice.

Can I Use a Cycling Helmet for Roller Skating?

Yes, if you like the style of a particular bike helmet and it fits perfectly, there’s no reason not to use it. Some roller skaters use bicycle helmets all the time. But you should make sure that the helmet is properly certified.

Other helmets you can use are wakeboarding helmets, snowboarding helmets, and hockey helmets. As long as the helmet in question offers a similar profile to a typical skate helmet and provides adequate protection in the rear of the head, then you can certainly use it for roller skating.

How Can I Tell If My Roller Skating Helmet Fits Well?

If you have the correct fit, your roller skate helmet should feel snug and comfortable. It shouldn’t be too low on the forehead, nor should you be able to remove it with ease by shoving it side-to-side or upward at the chin or back. That is, a properly fitting helmet shouldn’t move too much from side to side, back to front, or from front to back. Also, there should be no pressure points, and you shouldn’t be able to put more than two fingers under the chinstraps, which shouldn’t pinch or slide around.

Should I Always Replace My Helmet After an Impact?

Yes, it’s advisable to replace your roller skating helmet every time it takes a hit. In most cases, even a single hit produces enough impact to damage the structure and diminishes the protective ability of the inner Styrofoam liner. You end up with a helmet that’s significantly less able to provide head protection out roller skating.

How Long Do Skating Helmets Last?

Unless otherwise advised by a helmet manufacturer, a helmet can last for 5-10 years according to CPSC. How long a helmet lasts depends on how it’s used, how it’s been cared for, and how it’s been stored.

When Should I Replace My Roller Skating Helmet?

Replace your helmet if the outer shell gets loose or if you notice cracks in the inner liner or on the outer shell. Also, if the inner liner has marks or it seems like the foam inside is crushed or the outer shell fades, it’s time to replace the brain bucket. And if the chinstraps are worn and there are some missing pads or parts, it’s probably time to invest in a new helmet. Replacing your helmet helps you take advantage of improved/advanced helmet technologies which mostly means a more reliable or protective helmet.