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Cricket helmets and face guards

The specialised requirements of protective equipment for cricket.

Image © Prescott

British standards for protective equipment for cricket players have now been available for several years. These cover protection for the head, as well as for other vulnerable areas of the body (such as the hands, legs, knees, forearms, torso and genital area). Although there are no European (CEN) standards for these protective products, there are also standards in other parts of the cricketing world, including Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Equipment such as cricket helmets, leg guards (pads) and batsmen’s gloves are regarded as personal protective equipment, so in Europe these must be CE marked and comply with the PPE Regulation before being supplied in Europe. Cricketers’ PPE is generally considered to be ‘intermediate’ or category 2 and, therefore, requires that a Notified Body conducts a type-examination before issuing a certificate, which authorises the manufacturer to place the CE mark on the products.

Head protectors

The most recent standard covering head protectors (the complete assembly of helmet and face guard) is BS 7928:2013. The standard details requirements for head protector design, performance, innocuousness, marking and the information to be supplied by the manufacturer.

Head protectors must incorporate a retention system to retain the helmet on the wearer’s head. The retention system must be permanently attached to the helmet and, if in the form of a strap, it must be between 15mm and 26mm wide. In addition, it must not prevent the helmet from being easily removed from the wearer’s head in case of an injury to the wearer.

Requirements for design ensure the helmet covers what are considered to be the most vulnerable areas of the head (the crown and the temples) and that there are no sharp edges, roughness or projections.

Before conditioning and impact testing, a test line as specified in the standard is marked on the helmet shell. The test line is specified in the standard and shall be marked on each helmet. All impact sites must be either on or above the test line, except for the impact on the rear test area, which must be centred on the test line.

Impact tests on the helmet and facial contact tests are carried out after conditioning at ambient temperature, high temperature (50°C), and after an artificial ageing procedure carried out by exposing the helmet shell to a UV lamp in order to assess that helmet performance is not degraded after extended use. For each model, a minimum of six helmets to include at least one helmet of each size, shall be tested.

Each helmet is subjected to a series of impacts in several areas (the ‘helmet shell impact attenuation drop test’), designed to create an impact force comparable with a fast bowler’s delivery. The helmet is placed on a suitably sized rigid headform containing a triaxial accelerometer, and dropped from a set height onto a rigid anvil shaped like a cricket ball. The deceleration experienced by the headform is recorded. A fixed impact energy of 15J is used, typically a drop height of between 250mm and 490mm depending on the mass of the different sized headforms, before the helmet impacts the rigid anvil. For a helmet to pass the requirements of the standard, the peak deceleration of the headform cannot exceed 250g (where g is equal to an acceleration of 9.81m/s2). Typically, this is achieved using energy-absorbing foams or shells.

A single helmet of each size is impacted above the test line in the front region, the back region, the side region and an area of perceived weakness. If there is more than one area of perceived weakness, then each area should be tested at least once during the testing of a model.

Following impact testing on the shell, the head protectors are subjected to the ‘facial contact protective test’ to assess whether or not the ball is able to make contact with a specified ‘no contact zone’ of the face if it strikes between the peak and the top of the face guard. The same test is also able to assess whether or not the face guard is likely to make contact with the ‘no contact zone’ in the event that the ball strikes the face guard. Testing is carried out using an instrument capable of firing a ball at five different specified sites – one of which is the gap between the face guard and the peak. The standard defines the position of the head protector assembly and headform with respect to the direction of the ball.

Depending on the size of the helmet tested, either a junior training ball (with a mass of 115-122g and a diameter of 67-69mm) or a senior training ball (with a mass of 140-150g and a diameter of 70-73mm) is fired towards the helmet. The senior ball is fired at a velocity of 28m/s, while the junior ball is fired at a velocity of 23m/s. The head protector under test is mounted on a standard headform that is of a suitable size. The face of the headform is covered with a suitable witness material designed to highlight any contacts made between the ball or face guard and the front of the headform. No contact is permitted between the ball or the face guard and the headform in the specified ‘no contact’ zone.

Wicket keepers’ face protectors

Protective equipment is also available to protect the faces of wicket keepers, in case of accidental impact with the ball. The relevant standard is BS 7928-2:2009, which includes requirements for the materials and construction, the impact attenuation properties and the marking that must be placed on the protectors and the user information that must be supplied with the protectors.

Materials used for such protectors which are likely to be in contact with the skin must be known to not undergo appreciable alteration should they come into contact with sweat or substances likely to be found in toiletries. Materials known to cause skin disorders shall not be used. If any materials are known to be affected by paints, transfers or chemicals (such as cleaning fluids or hydrocarbons), the face protector shall carry a suitable warning label.

Impact testing a protective helmet

The construction requirements specify the minimum coverage, and the maximum size and orientation of any gaps in the coverage. The maximum gap for juniors (under 13s) and women is 55mm, while for senior players it is 65mm. However, any faceguard for senior players with a gap exceeding 55mm must carry additional warnings on the product and packaging.

Additionally, there shall be no sharp edges on the inside of the face protector and inward projections shall be covered with protective padding. For face protectors made from welded wire, the wire ends must terminate on the outer perimeter away from the face and welded joints must be located so that failures of the joints are unlikely to cause injury to the wearer.

It must be possible to securely fit each size of face protector to a wearer of the correct size. The face protector must be capable of being fastened in place so that it does not move from the correct wearing position. It should also be held away from the face by protective padding. Any suitable fastening device may be used, but straps (if used) must not be less than 15mm wide and not more than 26mm wide and must be elastic or fitted with fastening and adjustment devices to maintain tension.

Before impact testing, the area of test should be marked on the specimen. At least one protector per size should be tested, although a minimum of six protectors is required for a full series of tests. The conditioning before testing is identical to that used for conditioning cricket helmets according to BS 7928:2013.

The impact energy used in the test and the test anvil used is also identical to that used for cricket helmets according to BS 7928:2013. However, the test is conducted differently. Three impact sites are identified on each protector within the test area and each is impacted twice. The standard identifies the following test sites, which must be tested at least once within each set of test specimens: i) the temple area for each size of protector, ii) each area within the test area where the face protector is in contact with the face and iii) each perceived weak area within the test area.

Other cricket PPE

BS 6183 parts 1 to 4 cover the testing of protective items worn by cricketers, particularly batsmen. Part 1 covers general requirements, including innocuousness, chemical safety, ergonomics, sizing, marking and information to be supplied by the manufacturer. For general safety or innocuousness, protectors are required, among other things, to be free from hard or sharp edges, seams, buckles or other protuberances on the surface that could harm the player or other players during play. Chemical safety requirements specify that materials used to make the products shall not contain toxic or carcinogenic chemicals. Products should not degrade to release harmful chemicals and harmful chemicals should not leach out.

These requirements are to be satisfied by testing or inspection of records (such as safety data sheets) maintained by the manufacturer. For EU type-examination, SATRA would also expect to be provided with actual test data from an accredited laboratory before any protective product, including helmets, could be CE marked.

The sizing requirements specify that cricket protectors should be marked with a numerical size (from 1 to 6) relating to body dimensions such as height, chest girth or waist girth. Gloves are sized according to a different standard and genital protectors have specific sizing requirements based on their internal dimensions and volume.

The ergonomics requirements specify that examination must be performed with the assistance of an experienced player. For assessing junior equipment, the examiner shall also have had experience in coaching or umpiring junior cricket.

Other parts of the standard contain specific test requirements for each type of product. Part 2 covers genital protectors for both men and women. The main performance test for the traditional hard genital protector involves impacts by a mass falling from a standard height onto the sample. The internal height of the protector must not deflect by more than 5mm, measured by a modelling clay cylinder underneath the impact site. The protector must not shatter or crack and the rubber membrane must not perforate. In addition there are tests to measure the effectiveness of restraint systems to ensure that the protector does not move out of place during normal use.

Part 3 covers specific tests for leg guards, arm guards and chest guards. Part 4 covers gloves for batsmen. The first property assessed in these standards is the physical size and coverage of the protectors. In particular the area of coverage is specified according to the marked size, which itself is related to the size of the intended wearer. The perimeters of the various zones of protection must be marked on the protectors by the test laboratory in order to identify where to carry out impact testing.

The main impact test involves a standard steel mass with a strike face in the form of a hemisphere dropping a specified distance onto the test sample. The sample is placed on a shaped anvil designed to simulate the body area which would be covered by the protector. For example, the knee part of a batsmen’s leg guard is placed on a steel anvil in the form of a hemisphere with a radius of curvature of 50mm. The anvil is mounted on a load cell, which measures the level of transmitted force through the protector.

The drop height is dependent on the type of test being carried out and the claimed performance level of the product. Three performance levels are possible for most of these protectors but there are four levels for batsmen’s gloves. The highest level for gloves however is only possible for those products which incorporate a rigid guard element on the outside surface covering the index and middle finger of the lower (right) hand.

How can we help?

Please email ppe@satra.com for more information on the testing of helmets, face guards, leg guards, batsman’s gloves, genital protectors, arm guards and chest guards – for compliance both to the standards and to the requirements of the PPE Regulation for CE marking.