Helmets Leave Young Football Players Vulnerable to Concussions

Football players at all levels seem to get bigger and faster every year. But one thing hasn’t changed for decades: the helmets that young football players wear.

The New York Times reports that, despite increasing concussions in youth football and growing awareness of cognitive problems stemming from the injury, the voluntary safety standard for helmets has not changed meaningfully since 1973. And even that standard, written by a group financed by helmet manufacturers, is widely ignored.

Skull fractures – a frightening issue in high school and college football back in the 1960s — have largely disappeared, but otherwise helmets offer less protection than many parents, players and even youth sports officials assume.

As a result, the Times reports, more than 100,000 children are wearing helmets too old to provide adequate protection, and perhaps a half-million more are wearing potentially unsafe head gear. Meanwhile, an estimated 100,000 concussions are reported each season among high school players alone, and that figure may be low because of under-reporting and unrecognized injuries.

One major manufacturer, Schutt, has introduced helmets with plastic-based cushioning touted as designed “with the intent to reduce the risk of concussions.” But the company’s chief executive, Robert Erb, told the Times, “I don’t believe that there’s any single one test that will tell you whether a helmet can stop a concussion.”

The problem, of course, isn’t restricted to youth football. Helmet-first collisions on the field last weekend caused a spree of injuries in the National Football League, spurring the NFL to pledge a crackdown against dangerous and flagrant hits.

Related Posts:

NFL Fines 3 Players in Crackdown on Headhunting
Concussions Sending More Young Athletes to Emergency Rooms

Print Print  
Stuart Silverstein

About the author

Stuart Silverstein is assistant editor at FairWarning.

3 comments to “Helmets Leave Young Football Players Vulnerable to Concussions”

  1. Sean

    Really enjoyed your article. Xenith is also doing some wonderful things both technologically and through education. You should check out the new design and adaptive fit technology. They even have an excellent reconditioning program. See it here http://www.xenith.com/football/one-player-one-helmet/

  2. Robert Erb

    I agree with what Mr. Coppersmith said. In addition to the neck, I would add that there are a variety of other factors that need to be considered: age, weight, head mass, acceleration, neck strength, prior history of concussion, turf or artificial surface, how many impacts occurred, whether the athlete anticipated the impact or not, practice or game conditions, hydration, generics, and the like.

    Schutt believes that it provides superior protection because we believe our proprietary TPU cushioning system performs better than traditional foam. It holds up better as a function of time and temperature, it tends to be antimicrobial, and it does not break down like foam with repeated impacts.

    I would also suggest that Mr. Silverstein has not accurately portrayed our position on the matter of concussions nor accurately related the features and benefits of our technologies. As I mentioned in the Times article, there is currently no single test available that will predict whether a helmet can reduce the likelihood of a concussion. That is not to suggest that Schutt or other manufacturers do not conduct field tests, or a myriad of other lab tests in order to manufacturer the best possible products.

    Here is my Fair Warning alert: “Do not take advise from those who do not do their homework.”

  3. Kevin Coppersmith

    Helmets cannot prevent concussion, only skull fractures. Concussion results from the rapid angular acceleration/deceleration of the head, a helmet cannot prevent this rotational force. It’s an issue of the neck, not the head.

Leave a comment