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Having a cricket helmet is a useful investment when you play cricket. But what materials are used in a cricket helmets?
Cricket helmets are made up of different parts with each part being made from different raw materials. They need to be able to resist impact so materials such as ABS plastics, fibre glass, steel and high-density foam are all excellent choices.
Each part of a cricket helmet serves a slightly different purpose which is why they are made of different materials. The shell is designed to deflect the impact of the cricket ball away from the user hence some being made from ABS plastic. The padding inside has the purpose of making the helmet comfortable to wear hence the use of foam. The role of the grille is to protect the users face whilst maintaining as much visibility as possible. Metals such as steel and titanium are most commonly used. The strap on the chin is there to keep the cricket helmet securely in place and can be adjusted to fit the user. Nylon is the most common choice here.
There are other minor parts to the helmet such as screws to hold the grille in place and chin strap padding for comfort.
Cricket Helmet Materials
The outer impact resistant shell resembles a horse-riding jockey’s helmet and is the part of the helmet which all other parts are attached to. The outer shell is the largest and most essential component, and therefore needs to be as light as possible since the players wear helmets for an extended period. The primary role of the shell is to protect the head of the cricketer who is wearing it to avoid a serious injury.
Deflecting the ball away and reducing the spread of the impact is its purpose when preventing head injuries. Therefore, the helmets’ shell needs to be made from a strong material. The most common choices here are ABS plastics, fibreglass, or carbon fibre.
ABS Plastics, Fibreglass and Carbon Fibre
ABS plastic is used because of its ability to give strong resistance to impacts. It is also used around the home for socket covers, housing power tools and in making computer keyboards.
Because of how it is constructed, fibre glass can be up to 5 times stronger than wood and metal. Its criss-cross make up means that impacts are dispersed, which reduces the severity.
Carbon fibre has a low strength to weight ratio which makes it perfect for cricket helmets. People who wear this protective head gear need it to be lightweight but strong.
The shell of the helmet can be wrapped in a nylon type material to match in with cricket team colours or with the brighter patterns of the IPL (Indian Premier League) franchise teams. This doesn’t add to the safety of the cricket helmet, just the appearance.
The grille has the job of protecting the user from facial injuries. It is the responsibility of the cricketer to make sure that this piece of protective gear is installed correctly. The gap between the peak and grille must not allow a cricket ball to pass through.
The grille needs to be both strong and lightweight so metals such as steel and titanium are used on the vast majority of cricket helmets. Steel is the cheaper of the two metals which tends to make them a more popular choice at amateur levels than titanium.
Steel is strong but is also an easy material to work with a mould. There is the option of a carbon steel which is stronger than standard steel and has been heat treated. A grill made from steel should do the job.
Titanium is both stronger and lighter than steel, and it is one of the best impact resistance materials. This makes it a great option for the grille as it keeps the overall weight as low as possible. Also, the thickness of the metal tends to be thinner than steel so the visibility for the user is higher.
This is found on the inside of the shell and is in contact with the users head. The padding material serves two purposes. One is a safety aspect which is reducing the impact to the head when the helmet is hit. This cushioning effect means that the hard shell doesn’t make contact with the head and also adds another layer of protection.
Its second main purpose is one of comfort. Ideally, a cricketer wears their helmet for a long time (especially a batter) so the helmet needs to be comfortable. Some cricketers opt to remove their helmet when facing slower, spin bowlers but on the whole, a helmet is worn throughout an entire innings. The last cricketer to never wear a helmet of any description is Sir Vivian Richards of the West Indies.
This padding is made from high-density foam. The properties of this material make it a perfect choice as it absorbs impact and is also malleable. This means that the inner foam material will eventually mould itself to the head shape of the cricketer wearing it, and this moulded plastic will bring the comfort the cricketer needs.
There are two main styles of foam that are used but each one does have to conform to safety standards. One has smaller bubbles which are closer together. This style is strong but doesn’t offer a great deal of flexibility. One with larger bubbles is flexible but offers less strength.
Chin Strap Material
Although this is not a protective element of the helmet, it is still a key component. Manufacturers who are making cricket helmets opt for nylon to create the strap. The strap is used to hold the helmet securely in place and stop the grille from obstructing the view of the user.
Nylon is generally a smooth material which can withstand being pulled tight for long periods of time. The strap is adjustable, but once it is set up, it shouldn’t need adjusting too much at all. Some helmets have a quick release clip towards the top which relaxes the tension created.
Evolution of Cricket Helmet Materials
It is worth making it clear that the helmets we see today are a far cry from earlier protective equipment. Helmets were not used nor considered necessary in the early days of the sport and batters merely worn a cap or nothing on their heads. There are records of cricketers wearing scarves as a way of protecting themselves in some way against the impact of the ball.
The Homemade Helmet of Dennis Amiss
In terms of materials, the earliest helmet was worn properly by England cricketer Dennis Amiss which was a customised motorcycle helmet. Lots of plastics but a very bulky and heavy piece of protective equipment. The cricket helmet the England cricketer wore was not designed for the impact of a ball hitting it. The materials used in motorcycle helmets are designed for larger impacts.
Rubber was used at one stage to reinforce a simple cap. This also had 3 peaks to offer further protection from a front on impact. Rubber allowed the impact of the ball to spread upon contact which meant that the area to absorb shock affected was larger. This was stopped when materials such as fibre glass were used which deflect the ball quickly.
Cost of Different Materials
These vary hugely. Because of the varying costs of materials, the cost of the overall cricket helmet goes up depending on the materials. The largest difference in price is found in the grille. Titanium grilles cost significantly more than a steel version. The increased strength and lightweight feel make it a more comfortable and safer option. That being said, a recreational cricketer or young cricketers are unlikely to face the bowling speeds of the professional game. The strap isn’t going to make any difference to price and to a certain extent, neither is the foam inside the helmet.
Generally, the more you can afford to spend on a cricket helmet the better. You will get higher quality materials which increase your safety and comfort. A lethal bowling attack is quite rare in cricket, but you have to be careful. To quote the Australian legend Matthew Hayden, ‘The helmet is one of the greatest assets that a cricketer can have.’
Weighing up the different materials that are used in helmet technology and their properties will allow you to make as informed a choice as possible.