So says a group of researchers from Wisconsin. After gathering data on over 1300 football players the overall theme was that there was no correlation between expensive helmets and reduction of concussion incidence. On first inspection the design of the study looks sound, especially since high school athletic trainers were involved, and the results appeared to be sound according to Timothy McGuine;
“We found the actual incidence of concussion was not more for players wearing the newest helmets versus wearing helmets 3, 4 or 5 years old,” McGuine said. “We also looked at [concussion] severity by helmet model. No difference there, either.”
This finding is absolutely logical based upon today’s helmet technology. McGuine is correct the exterior shell has achieved its goal to a tune of 99.9999% – prevention of skull fractures – however, the issue of concussions is really something a helmet was/is not designed to combat.
Think about this; the brain rests within fluid inside your skull, the primary protection for our brain, thus allowing our “noodle” to move “freely” for everyday tasks like walking, running, jumping. In fact, it is an amazing process by which our brain stays stable and protected even though we subject it to crazy forces in everyday life. Adding a helmet to the mix does nothing for the brain versus movement of the head. Some people have even suggested that the helmet even can be a contributor to increased motion of the head, due to the increased weight. What helmets protect are the linear forces and direct trauma that are subjected to the brain bucket.
We have discussed this MANY times before; until we find a way to limit the angular, rotational, acceleration and deceleration forces on the head itself the prevention of concussion is still in the works.
Interestingly, we looked through our database of NFL concussions for the past three years and the helmets identified and found the following;
- 458 helmets cataloged of 519 concussions found
- 126 of the helmets were “old” model helmets (Riddell VSR4 and Schutt AiR Advantage)
- both of those helmets are no longer manufactured and have not been for some time
- this makes up 27.5% of the concussions the past three years
- our data shows that this helmet is on less than 14% of the NFL players
- the rate of concussion in the “old” helmets declined sharply after 2010 – after we published the stark information
- The remaining 332 ID’ed helmets of concussions were spread over 10 different types of helmets
- our data shows no overall correlation to concussion incidence (falling in line with the above article)
- there is a disproportionate amount of concussions in helmets preferred by DB’s
What the we are trying to say is that these researchers in Wisconsin may very well be correct in their summation, the technology is about tapped out on helmets as it relates to concussions. In our opinion it is obvious that the new helmets of today have provided better protection than those of the past.
Although the helmets grabbed the headline, the research also pointed to something that we have also been very proactive about; mouth guards.
This study also found that custom mouth gear – aimed at “concussion prevention” – was more likely to be used in cases of concussion. The standard boil and bite variety of mouth gear had less incidence of concussion;
The study also found that players who wore a specialized or custom-fitted mouth guard actually had a higher risk of concussion than players who wore a generic mouth guard provided by their school.
“Should parents pay $30 for a mouth guard to protect their son against concussion, or just use the $1 mouth guard the school provides?” McGuine asked.
In my mind the reason for this interesting side note of the study is simple; players who don equipment that they feel will protect them from concussion will only increase their risky behavior.
It is very important for people to understand that there is no piece of equipment out there currently that can prevent or even attenuate concussions in sport. The best way to protect one from concussion is to limit exposure and avoid situations where concussions can become likely.
Play safe out there, be smart!