Journal Published Online: 17 November 2015
Volume 44, Issue 6

Evaluating Airbag Safety Vests for Equestrian Sports



Thoracic injuries are common in equestrian sports. Advanced safety equipment, including airbag vests, have been introduced to the market to protect this body region. Standard EN13158 [“Protective Clothing—Protective Jackets, Body and Shoulder Protectors for Equestrian Use: For Horse Riders and Those Working with Horses, and for Horse Drivers—Requirements and Test Methods,” European Committee for Standardization, Brussels, 2009 (in German)] defines the minimum requirements for conventional safety vests; however, there is currently no standard related to airbag vests for equestrian sports. The aim of this study is to investigate the applicability of a draft motorcycling standard [prEN1621-4, “Motorcyclists' Protective Clothing Against Mechanical Impact. Part 4: Motorcyclists' Inflatable Protectors—Requirements and Test Methods,” Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V., Berlin, 2010 (in German)] for equestrian airbag vests. Based on EN13158 and prEN1621-4, airbag vests for equestrian sports were tested. In addition to the tests outlined in the above standards, the pressure induced by the inflating airbag on the thorax was measured and the sound level of the deploying airbag was recorded. The use of airbag vests in conjunction with conventional vests was also investigated. Testing airbag vests in accordance with the existing standards was possible without practical issues. The impact tests indicated that airbag vests were able to absorb higher forces compared to conventional vests. The airbag inflation times were recorded to be between 186 and 260 ms. Trigger forces were measured to be between 150 and 593 N. The maximum pressure on the upper body resulted in 20 to 84 kPa. The bang associated with airbag deployment generated a sound level of 87.3 to 98.4 dB(A). The degree of protection offered by airbag vests was demonstrated by applying the procedures prescribed in existing standards. The draft standard for motorcycling proved to be applicable to equestrian sports. However, regarding the interpretation of the test results, it seems necessary to adapt several threshold values of this standard to account for equestrian-specific parameters.

Author Information

Ade, N.
Inst. for Biomechanics, Zurich, CH
Stämpfli, R.
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), Protection and Physiology, St. Gallen, CH
Schmitt, K.
Inst. for Biomedical Engineering, Univ. and ETH Zurich, Zurich, CH
Pages: 9
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Stock #: JTE20140345
ISSN: 0090-3973
DOI: 10.1520/JTE20140345