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Troxel's Influence on the Helmet Industry

Published in theThe Equestrian Medical Safety Association (EMSA) Spring, 2010 Newsletter

Dr. Richard Timms' Influence on the Helmet Industry

By: Karisa Macias

For more than 100 years, Troxel has been a leader in safety innovation, with contributions ranging from advancements in the bicycling industry to life-saving children’s car seats for the automotive industry. When, in 1990, Troxel spun off from its parent company to enter the equestrian market, certified helmets did not exist. Helmets were only obtainable for English-style riders. Western enthusiasts, steeped in years of tradition, carried a stigma against wearing helmets. Catalyzed by the success of its first schooling helmet, and followed thereafter by the first certified show helmet, Troxel quickly emerged as the world's leading provider of ASTM / SEI certified equestrian helmets.

Today, Troxel dedicates all its resources to equestrian helmets and accessories. The company offers fifteen helmet models in thirty-nine different styles, serving riders in both English and Western & Trail disciplines. To date, Troxel has placed more than three million helmets into the North American market, and continues to introduce new styles and technological advancements each year. Its most notable achievements include the creation of the first lightweight, ventilated ASTM approved equestrian helmet, GPS micro-adjustable fit system, Flip Fold™ Fit System, and Soft-Tip™ visors.

At the core of this innovation is Dr. Richard Timms, the founder of Troxel’s equestrian business and benevolent chairman. Troxel is the only physician-owned equestrian helmet manufacturer and Dr. Timms’ influence has been significant. His background as a specialist in critical care at the University of California and as a research professor at The Scripps Institute provided the foundation for Troxel's advanced research and innovative products.

Since 1992, Dr. Timms has personally reviewed every case and helmet (if available) from accidents reported to Troxel in which there has been a head injury of any degree. As part of Troxel’s warranty and Accident Replacement program, the company requests the related accident story from the rider and usually receives them. From this information, Dr. Timms has become knowledgeable on the broad range of circumstances related to equestrian head injuries, such as the conditions leading up to the accident and the details of the helmet impact.

Dr. Timms entered medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1963 after spending three years at Denison University in Ohio. His experiences in Vietnam as a medical company commander in the 101st Infantry and as Walter Reed Hospital were supplemented by specialty training in internal medicine and critical care medicine, an emerging medical specialty in the late 1960s and 1970s. In 1980, Dr. Timms traveled to China as a scientist under an exchange program of the United States Department of State, one of the first such exchanges after the Mao’s Cultural Revolution had closed the nation. Dr. Timms interest in preventive medicine was encouraged through a close friendship with his uncle, Dr. Luther Terry. Dr. Terry famously served as Surgeon General of the Public Health Service under President Kennedy. Among many preventive medicine contributions, Dr. Terry introduced automotive seatbelts and produced the ground-breaking Surgeon General’s Report of 1964 which raised public awareness of the health risks of cigarette smoking.

While working at the University of California, San Diego, and Scripps Research Institute in the 1970s, Dr. Timms advised Troxel Company on injury prevention. Troxel was partnering with Fisher-Price to develop children’s car seats, high chairs, bed rails and other safety products. Then headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, Troxel became the leading producer of injury prevention products in North America.

In the decade that followed, Dr. Timms continued his career as a pioneering advocate for injury prevention helmets. Following his vision and prior to entering the equestrian field, Troxel was a major developer and producer of helmets for cycling, mountain climbing and skateboarding.

“Troxel designed and produced helmets for the 1984 Olympic cycling team that reached the cover of Scientific American magazine,” said Timms. “When I saw the photo of the best athletes in the world with protective helmets, I knew this modeling was meaningful from an injury-prevention perspective. More riders will be accepting safety helmets and less riders will be killed or disabled. Not only will untold numbers of families be saved extreme loss and grief, our society will be less burdened by the severely head-injured riders who often become wards of the state.”

Cycling helmets became a commodity in the early 1990s and became available to everyone. This caused Dr. Timms to turn Troxel’s attention toward the equestrian field: “I recognized an unmet need for equestrian-related head protection, an issue I first discussed with the Chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury Prevention in the late 1980s. The equestrian field had missed the surge in protective helmets experienced by cycling even though equestrian riding was more dangerous than cycling on a per-minute basis. Unfortunately, the stylish equestrian ‘hunt caps’ of the 1970s and 1980s were poorly protective, and emergency rooms or ICUs were seeing many preventable deaths and serious head injuries in equestrian riders. For equestrian riders who wanted to wear more protective headgear, there were no good alternatives.”

Initially deep-seated resistance to protective helmets has been true of every helmet program—cycling, skiing, hockey, and baseball helmets—as in other fields of injury prevention, including automotive seat belts and children car seats. Dr. Timms’ philosophy to overcome this natural and understandable resistance has three components. In order for the public to change their behavior and embrace new safety equipment, scientists and manufacturers must first prove their effectiveness, they must educate consumers regarding their benefits, and then products must be engineered to the point that their use becomes increasingly easier and affordable.

“Interestingly, equestrian helmets are one of the most effective injury prevention products on a per-minute-of-use basis over all that I have studied,” Dr. Timms said. “I certainly know and feel what these products mean to riders and families. I have experienced some heart wrenching moments with the dark side of severe injuries and deaths. It is worth emphasizing that the safer a recreational activity, the more likely it is that it will be supported by parents. I can assure you that ASTM helmets make the great activity of horse owning, riding and competing a safer activity. Not all, but most deaths and injuries can be prevented. We are learning in our culture how to do this and at the same time enjoy a free, unrestricted society. We can accomplish this. In the field of injury prevention, the best of medicine, business and technology can be and is being brought together to achieve major advances that benefit everyone whether directly or indirectly. It is a worthy goal at both a personal and cultural level and it preserves precious human and financial resources.”

Now semi-retired, Dr. Timms still maintains an active role in driving Troxel's research and development efforts.  But it is safe to assume his successor shares a similar vision: Troxel’s current CEO is Shay Timms, Dr. Timms’ daughter. With a wealth of experience in Troxel’s sales, marketing and finance, and from her time as a corporate attorney specializing in business law, Ms. Timms is well-positioned to take Troxel’s safety, quality and innovation to new levels.

As a result of this steadfast commitment to innovation, Troxel can boast one of the finest safety records in the world, having prevented countless deaths and injuries.  This remarkable record validates the work of Troxel’s dedicated research and development team giving active attention to advances in head protection technology.

For more information about Troxel please visit: www.troxelhelmets.com and please visit Troxel’s new Safety Center: www.troxehelmets.com/safety

About The Equestrian Medical Safety Association (EMSA) EMSA is dedicated to the philosophy, principles and application of safety of people in equestrian activities.EMSA logo 2007 3-14-09 The EMSA News is published 3 times a year and contains valuable information and articles relevant to equestrian safety and our organization.

Read the latest newsletter from the EMSA detailing Troxel's Chairman: "Dr. Richard Timms' Influence on the Helmet Industry."

Download the pdf here: EMSA News Spring2010

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