Helmets are now required for pro BMX riders in the BMX Street category at the 2011 Kia X Games Asia in Shanghai, China.
Formerly recommended but not mandatory, the new helmet ruling comes following a head injury suffered by Fit Bike Co. pro Van Homan at X Games 16 in Los Angeles, Calif. last August. Homan fell backwards off his bike during Street practice and suffered a fractured skull and bruising and bleeding on his skull. He was hospitalized for several days and out of commission for close to three months.
According to X Games Director of Sports and Competition Tim Reed, the decision did not come hastily. "After each X Games, we evaluate every aspect of the event including the safety of the athletes and courses. As part of the evaluation we recognized that the speed and size of the tricks that were being executed during the street competition warranted helmets. In collaboration with our BMX sport organizer, Mat Hoffman, we made the decision to require helmets for those athletes who participate in BMX Street. With this decision we look forward to supporting the growth and the safe progression of BMX street in the years ahead."
Many BMX pros seemed unfazed by the decision.
"It's the X Games' choice. They put on the contest. They make the rules, they tell us when the contest is and when we can practice. And that being the case, they can tell us if we need to wear helmets or not. I don't have a problem with that. And I'll definitely wear one," said X Games 16 BMX Street Bronze Medalist Brian Kachinsky.
During day one of practice on Thursday, the ruling was not being enforced by X Games staff, but the majority of riders practicing wore helmets while riding the street course, including BMX Mini Mega competitor Morgan Wade, BMX Vert competitor Vince Byron and also Kachinsky.
Introduced to the X Games in 2007, BMX Street was the only BMX discipline where helmets were not mandatory during competition. Based on street riding, in which BMX riders adapt their skills to urban architecture such as handrails, ledges and stair gaps, the X Games BMX Street contests followed the organic nature of street riding and did not require riders to wear helmets while competing.
The 2011 Kia X Games Asia runs from Friday through Monday at the Jiangwan Sports Centre in Shanghai, China. Events include BMX Vert, Street and Mini Mega, Skateboard Vert, Street, and Mini Mega, and Aggressive Inline Vert and Street. Helmets are required for all events with the exception of Skateboard Street.