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In motorsport, it is the norm for drivers to customise their crash helmets; mostly to express their personality but sometimes to advertise their sponsors too.

Bobsleigh has some similarities with motor sports, not least the requirement to wear crash helmets. Unlike luge and skeleton (which both use specially designed helmets) bobsleigh appears to be use bike/car racing helmets. For the most part, bobsleigh drivers appear to simply race with a "stock" helmet showing no more than the helmet manufacturer or plain white - i.e. no personalisation. Where a design or pattern is used, this design seems to be adopted by both the driver and the brakeman (so cannot be considered "personal").

Given that the sleds and the competitors' lycra suits are often customised (i.e. not just off the shelf), is there any particular reason for helmets not being customised too? Is there a rule that prevents this, for example? (Ben commented below to point out that this is not the case - helmets sometimes adopt these team colours too).

To be clear - I am asking why personal helmets aren't used and my question isn't just limited to Olympic competitions.

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The Olympics has strict rules against advertising on uniforms by athletes of all sports. These are outlined in the Olympic Charter, Rule 50 (Advertising, Demonstrations, Propaganda). This rule covers all sports. On clothing and accessories worn during participation "no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear...." There is an exception for identification of the manufacturer of the equipment, but even this is limited by rule.

According to the official Guidelines Regarding Authorised Identifications for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the manufacturer's identification on bobsleigh and skeleton helmets is limited to 15 square centimeters on each side of the helmet.

Often in competitions other than the Olympics, you will see the athletes wearing helmets with sponsors prominently displayed.

However, I don't think it is true that, in the Olympics, bobsleigh helmets are always plain white. This is a photo of Shauna Rohbock and Michelle Rzepka at the start of the bobsled run at the Vancouver 2010 winter games.

Shauna Rohbock and Michelle Rzepka at Vancouver 2010

As for why the team members wear the same helmets, I believe that in bobsleigh, the helmet is considered part of the uniform, and as a result, the helmets are uniform across the team. This is different than in Le Mans team racing, where apparently, the helmet is not a part of the uniform, and the drivers each wear their own helmet. This photo is the Gulf Racing Middle East team in 2012 before the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Gulf Racing Middle East team in 2012

  • Great answer Ben and interesting reading, though it doesn't answer everything :) From an olympic point of view, your answer certainly explains part of my question (specifically around sponsors). It's not entirely clear from my reading of the IOC rules whether a personal (non-commercial) design would be prohibited though your image of the US women's 2-man team in 2010 goes some way to suggest that it might be permissible. What I do note, however is that the designs they are sporting (again evident in the 2013/2014 World Championships) are actually team designs rather than personal ones. – Greg Feb 12 '14 at 9:49
  • @Greg Perhaps I'm confused about your question. You compare bobsleigh to motorsports, but motorsports are individual sports. Bobsleigh is a team sport, and teams wear uniforms that match. In the Olympics, advertising on uniforms is prohibited, but it is not true that bobsleigh athletes never have any decoration on their helmets. Could you clarify your question? – Ben Miller Feb 12 '14 at 22:43
  • The question fundamentally boils down to "why don't bobsleigh athletes wear personalised helmets?". Noting that: a team helmet is not a personal one; a personalised helmet need not contain sponsorship; bobsleigh competitions take place outside of the Olympics too and even there, personalisation of bobsleigh helmets doesn't seem to happen. Not all motorsport is individuals either - Le Mans endurance racing for example includes multiple teams and those teams field cars with multiple drivers in each. They typically each sport personalised helmet designs. – Greg Feb 13 '14 at 10:03
  • @Greg Edited the answer to address individual vs team helmets. – Ben Miller Feb 13 '14 at 16:26
  • This is interesting reading @Ben (especially around the IOC rules) but doesn't get to the bottom of the core question which is about personal helmets. Your answer to this specific points hinges around your sentence (my emphasis) "I believe that in bobsleigh, the helmet is considered part of the uniform and as a result, the helmets are uniform across the team". The IOC Rule 50 is interesting but I can't understand how it precludes a (non-sponsored) personal helmet. Even if it did somehow preclude them, it also doesn't explain why personal helmets don't appear in a non-Olympic arena either. – Greg Feb 17 '14 at 14:36

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