When Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher was severely injured in a skiing crash, suspicion fell on the camera mounted on his helmet as one of the causes of damage to his brain. That possibility emerged again this weekend after a French journalist reported that Schumacher’s son believes the camera mount contributed to his father’s injuries.
Formula 1 commentator Jean-Louis Moncet, a friend of the Schumacher family, told a French radio station he had spoken to Schumacher’s son. The driver, he said, was waking up very slowly.
Moncet said: “The problem for Michael was not the hit, but the mounting of the GoPro camera that he had on his helmet that injured his brain.”
Shortly after the ski crash that put Schumacher in a coma, reports fingered the camera as a source of his injuries.
Experts from Ensa, a ski and climbing academy in Chamonix, conducted tests to find out what happened if there was another object between a ski helmet and the solid surface it hit.
“The helmet completely broke. It was in at least two parts. Ensa analysed the piece of the helmet to check the material, and all was OK,” said a source close to the investigation.
“But why did it explode on impact? Here the camera comes into question. The laboratory has been testing to see if the camera weakened the structure.”
It’s possible — some would even say likely — that Schumacher was simply extremely unfortunate to be involved in an impact that was beyond the helmet’s ability to absorb. There have been numerous incidents of cyclists dying or suffering serious in crashes in which they were wearing helmets, and helmets fracturing on impact instead of crushing to absorb shock is very common.
Conversely, mountain bikers have been using helmet-mounted cameras in mass numbers for years, as couple of minutes’ browsing YouTube shows. Crashing’s part of the game (whenever two or three mountain bikers are gathered together, they will start comparing scars) but we were unable to find any reports of serious injuries linked to camera mounts.
Shortly after Schumacher’s crash, VeloNews received a letter from a reader questioning the safety of helmet-mounted cameras. Phil said he’d asked GoPro, and been told: “Our mounts are not designed to withstand significant impact, in the event that you do significantly impact your helmet the mounting parts and adhesive would likely not stay or adversely affect the performance of the helmet.”
VeloNews tech editor Lennard Zinn asked helmet makers their opinion on the mounting of cameras.
Giro’s Eric Richter said: “We studied this issue thoroughly, including significant testing at our in-house DOME test lab with both Go-Pro and Contour units. Our mounts cause no significant additional loads for the neck nor brain rotation due to well designed breakaway features.”
Michael Grim of Specialized said: “We believe that a good GoPro mount should “break away” in an impact. We think this is the main thing. There is still risk that the camera could still cause injury, but not worse than rocks, eyewear, etc. There is always risk of injury in an accident, regardless. So, it’s always best to keep the rubber side down.
“From our experience, so far, most of the adhesive mounts do break away fine. It seems a bigger problem that cameras get knocked off and lost. So, tethering the camera may also be wise, while still providing the breakaway feature. We think it’s a bad idea to have a camera “hard mounted or bolted” to the helmet, as this may increase risk by adding leverage to rotation in an impact.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.