USEF to Make Decision on Helmet Cam Use By Start of 2015 Season

Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair at Plantation Field. Photo by Jenni Autry. Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair at Plantation Field. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The USEF Eventing High Performance and Technical committees will discuss the use of helmet cams in a joint meeting tomorrow morning at the USEA Convention in the hopes of reaching a decision by the start of the 2015 season, Shealagh Costello, USEF director of Eventing National Programs, confirmed in this afternoon’s Safety Committee meeting.

“We realize there’s a need for resolution by the beginning of the competition year,” Shealagh said, explaining the decision to stop the use of helmet cams was always meant to be temporary, as the organization had been under the the impression that the Transport Research Laboratory safety report commissioned by British Eventing would have been released by now.

However, Mike Etherington-Smith, chief executive of British Eventing, told USEA National Safety Officer Malcom Hook today that the safety report is currently on hold due to lack of financial support. “Everyone wants to do the research, but no one is coming up with the funding,” Malcolm said.

The USEF ban on helmet cams, which went into effect Oct. 29, has received widespread criticism from eventers. Doug Payne wrote an excellent blog for The Chronicle of the Horse on the topic, imploring officials to reconsider the ban for the sake of preserving the visibility helmet cams afford the sport.

Though the rationale behind the ban has largely been explained as a concern for safety — spurred on after a French journalist claimed a helmet cam caused Michael Shumacher’s brain injury, later retracting his statement — Roy Burek of Charles Owen Helmets explained there are also concerns from an insurance standpoint.

“If there’s an injury (while wearing a helmet cam) … the insurance company behind the helmet company will say you have modified the helmet in some way. Even if the helmet was rubbish, the company would say it wasn’t how it was manufactured but the fact that you modified it,” Roy said.

Jo Whitehouse, USEA CEO, agreed the issue of insurance is a tricky one, and the organizations wanted to ensure they are protected from lawsuits. “That’s why the decision was made to hold hard until we could research it more,” Jo said.

The USEF expects a decision to be announced at the beginning of the year prior to the first competition of the season, Ocala Horse Properties Winter I Horse Trials on Jan. 10 and 11, 2015.

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