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Inline Skating Helmet Standards
A message from Les Earnest

Summary: This 1996 page is history. ASTM's inline skate standard is now formally part of the bicycle helmet standard, as Les had always recommended, but CPSC never has agreed. We leave this page up to explain the issue.

Date: Sun, 22 Dec 1996 13:03:48 -0800 (PST)

From: Les Earnest

Subject: Roller skating helmet standards approved

After many years with no recognized helmet standard for roller skating, ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) has now approved not one but two such standards.

1. The new Recreational Roller Skating helmet standard (F-1751) is identical to the bicycle helmet standard (F-1447) except for labeling. It is rated for general roller skating use, including speed skating on either quads or in-lines, but not for freestyle skating or roller hockey.

2. The scope of the existing skateboarding helmet standard (F-1492) has been expanded to recognize its applicability to freestyle roller skating.

Note that whereas the recreational skating helmets (F-1751), like bicycle helmets, will be designed to absorb a single hard impact, the Freestyle (F-1492) helmets are designed for multiple impacts of slightly lower energy.

It can be argued that instead of creating a new helmet standard for recreational skating, ASTM could have recognized the applicability of their bicycle helmet standard to this sport. Indeed, I tried hard to make that argument before the standards committee (ASTM F08.53) but got shot down. It appeared that several manufacturers would like to be able to pretend that you need a different helmet for roller skating than for bicycling. While making it a separate standard proved to be the only way I could get it through the committee, I hope that nobody gets taken in by a claim that you need different helmets for cycling and skating.

Getting this through the standards process has taken five years and has been greatly facilitated by support from Uwe Brockmann, working on behalf of IISA, and by written endorsements from IISA, USAC/RS and USA Cycling.

In view of the fact that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is developing a bicycle helmet standard based on the ASTM standard that will probably become the national standard in about two years, I have been lobbying them to also recognize it as a roller skating helmet standard. Unfortunately, their directive from the U.S. Congress mentions only bicycle helmets and they have apparently chosen to adhere to that narrow guidance rather than extending the scope of their standard.

One thing that I find strange about that is that the head of CPSC went on national television last year urging all skaters to wear helmets, even though her agency does not recognize any skating helmet standards. My letter to her pointing out this anomaly elicited a polite response that promised nothing.

Another helmet standard for ice skating, aimed principally at short course speed skating, is still under development by Bell Sports and will probably be approved by ASTM next year.

-Les Earnest

Les Earnest on Bicycle Helmets for Skating - 1995

Here is Les' 1995 letter to CPSC arguing that their bicycle
helmet standard should cover skate helmets as well.
1995 June 28

Ann Brown, Chairman
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, DC 20207

Subject: Helmet standard needed for roller skating

Dear Chairman Brown:

I was pleased last week to both hear on the radio and to see in a local newspaper your recommendation that in-line skaters and other roller skaters wear protective helmets. This is sensible advice, but it reveals a problem: there are no recognized helmet standards for roller skating. Fortunately you are in a position to do something about this.

For over a decade, bicycle helmets meeting the ANSI and Snell standards have been used by recreational roller skaters. Bicycle helmets meeting the more recent ASTM standard are also being used in the same way and all have proven quite effective in protecting against head injuries. In fact, the use of such helmets has been required for some time by the governing bodies of competitive roller skating.

A few helmet manufacturers have informally proposed that a separate helmet standard be developed for roller skating. I believe that this would not be in the best interests of consumers because many people participate in both sports and there is no reason for them to buy separate helmets for each activity when one helmet will provide good protection.

When your agency invited comments last Fall on the draft CPSC bicycle helmet standard, which is similar to the ASTM standard, the national governing bodies of bicycle racing and competitive roller skating urged that it be recognized as being applicable to both cycling and roller skating [1, 2, 3]. Proposals are now being balloted by the ASTM helmet standards committee to formally recognize the ASTM bicycle helmet standard as a cycling/ recreational roller skating standard and to recognize the existing skateboarding helmet standard as a skateboarding/freestyle roller skating helmet standard. Freestyle roller skating involves ramp jumping and similar activities that expose participants to multiple helmet impacts, which calls for a different kind of helmet standard.

Inasmuch as it is in the best interests of consumers to be able to use helmets in more than one sport and given that existing bicycle helmet standards work well in recreational roller skating, I recommend that your agency officially recognize the forthcoming national standard for bicycle helmets as being applicable to both sports. I understand that your mandate from Congress mentions only bicycle helmets, but it appears to me that that does not preclude recognition of the broader applicability of such helmets.

In the future, your agency might also wish to consider adopting helmet standards for other activities or combinations of activities, such as a multiple impact helmet standard for use in skateboarding, freestyle roller skating and similar activities. In view of mounting injury rates, however, the immediate need is for a helmet standard that covers recreational roller skating. Fortunately, your organization has already developed a good one. Please don't keep it a secret.


Les Earnest
Chair, ASTM F08.53 Task Group on Roller Skating Helmets
Member, ANSI Z90.4 (Bicycle Helmet) Standards Committee
Member, Board of Directors, United States Cycling Federation


[1] Lisa Voight (Executive Director, U.S. Cycling Federation), letter to Consumer Product Safety Commission, Sept. 27, 1994.
[2] Uwe Brockmann (Helmet Representative, International In-line Skating Association), letter to Consumer Product Safety Commission, Oct. 26, 1994.
[3] Charles Wahlig (ASTM Helmet Representative, U.S. Amateur Confederation of Roller Skating), letter to Consumer Product Safety Commission, Oct. 24, 1994.

Enclosures: References.

Five years later, CPSC had not yet agreed with Les, but did issue a press release indicating that bicycle helmets that met "CPSC's standard" were recommended for roller skating and scootering.

Still later, in 2003, ASTM combined its bicycle and in-line skating helmet standards, but retained a separate standard for helmets for skateboard use, where multiple impact performance is required. Manufacturers did not agree, and are selling skate style helmets certified only to the CPSC bike helmet standard. We have a page up on skate vs. bicycle helmets.