Helmet Minutia: What you need to know

25 Feb

I was dropped a line from a source back home (OK my dad) about reports recently on the news in Denver.  Here is the LINK to the 9news story that prompted my father to send the info.  I found the report very informative and brought forth many angles on the story of helmets.

Meanwhile I also was given information from other coaches and followers about other press-type people asking for helmet information in Missouri, Georgia and Louisiana to name a few.

Who is behind all of this information gathering, I have not had it confirmed, but from the people I have been in contact with, Virginia Tech keeps getting mentioned.  I don’t know if this is because of the Star Rating System or if there is a PR campaign being driven by VT and the researchers.  Regardless this seems interesting to me on many levels.

What you need to know is simple and is as follows (of course in my opinion):

  • Helmets were never designed to prevent concussions
  • Helmet fit is currently the key to proper protection
  • Physics and anatomy/physiology currently limit helmets from providing concussion protection alone 
  • Rating or determining a helmets “concussion fitness” based on linear forces alone is inadequate
  • Helmets change due to weather (temperature) and overall use over time
  • Helmets ARE NOT WEAPONS they were created for defense of the skull and brain from catastrophic injury
  • There are some older helmets that should not be in use – generally those over 15 years old – mainly due to padding and fit
  • Although debated; there is no clear evidence that a 2-star rated helmet reduces concussion incidence over a 5-star
  • Yearly reconditioning of the helmets should be a priority and serve to maintain the equipment

“Back to the lecture at hand,” I would like to know who is exactly sending out this information and what the end game is?  If it is VT and the rating system, fine, although everyone should be fully aware that this system is clearly only been trialed and has yet to bear fruit in the “real world”.  If it is helmet manufacturers trying to use this as “fear-mongering” to drive sales then this is dirty pool and needs to be stopped.

If the guise is education about concussions, then you are doing it wrong.  Keeping the focus on the helmet is only once again muddying the water.  The ol’ shell game, if you will.  Helmets are designed for linear forces alone, if there was a way to abate concussions via a helmet wouldn’t you think the brightest researches in the world and the helmet companies would have designed it already and made BILLIONS on it?  Don’t give me the “it takes time to create” mumbojumbo, because if the design were possible it would have happened years ago.  Those in the industry are fore thinkers and see obstacles; they don’t react when we are talking MONEY!

You cannot stop the brain from moving inside the skull when you suddenly stop or unknowingly change directions (acceleration/deceleration and rotational forces).  This is how concussions occur most of the time.  Direct impact to the head ALONE rarely causes a simple (nothing simple about a concussion couldn’t find a good adjective) concussion.  Direct impact to the head causes the much more severe traumatic brain injury.  Burying our head in the sand about helmets only causes us to lose the path…

The injury of concussion is not the elephant in the room, rather it is the mismanagement of the injury that has led us to where we are.

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4 Responses to “Helmet Minutia: What you need to know”

  1. G. Malcolm Brown February 25, 2014 at 15:11 #

    Dustin,

    ===” Helmet fit is currently the key to proper protection.”===

    Is a tighter fit or a slightly loose fit safer..?

    A tight fit , has the padding already partially compressed .. increasing its “firmness” and “grab” to the head of the player .

    ..Which would transmit impact forces to the players skull sooner ..?

    ..Which would take longer for the pads to bottom out..?

    ..And in the case of rotational forces from a face mask grab..would the tighter fit spin the head more then the loose helmet ..?

    A slightly loose helmet might simply be moved out of line..sliding about a bit …but still leaving the players head facing forward.. and less likely to result in neck injury..?

    Thanks for your work,

    G. Malcolm Brown

  2. jbloggs February 26, 2014 at 09:10 #

    More bad science to promote the sale of new equipment. It is just a retread of the Riddell Revolution scam. Now lets stick sensors all over them for an extra $300 a kid even though the data is medically meaningless (right Guz/Nowinski – we will use children as test subjects). No one is testing for rotational forces.

    There are no good models for children. Let’s face it, youth football was created to produce fans not players. Put them in little funny costumes to look like to pros without any consideration for biology or engineering. (It should be made very clear to parents that if you do not have the right genetics, no matter what little Billy tacking dummy does, he is not going to get a scholarship or go on to the pros.) Teach them really bad habits by promoting things like “Jacked UP” on ESPN. You can thank Paul Tagliabue for the above as a response to the “MTV video generation” and the threat posed by Jordan, Johnson and Bird from Basketball in the 1980s. Paul wanted to go full on Massollin and get fetuses playing but three year-olds would have to do (no one in Paul’s family plays football, so it is OK).

    All these so-called reports and rating systems are based on bunk. We recorded 8 concussions and none in practice but we registered 1,2MM hits. Pure Dreck. Hire an ATC, let him or her diagnose and treat the concussion. Record the injuries in a central database and have real scientists do the analysis.

    No helmet will substitute for real medical care and proper coaching.

  3. Sawyer Wallace (@SawyerWally33) February 26, 2014 at 14:09 #

    The thing is, why so much focus on the helmet? External equipment has slowly advanced to protect the brain, skull, and other body parts for decades. What about turning the research to focus on what’s going on INSIDE the skull to actually find out what could prevent long term concussion impacts from when the brain is knocked back and forth? It’s an interesting debate, and the LA times wrote about a Wisconsin study on this recently. It was written by Karen Kaplan. Worth checking out.

  4. Sam McDonagle (@SamMcDonagle) February 26, 2014 at 14:32 #

    First off, bonus points for the use of a Skyrim helmet. Second, the first point says it all-helmets were never designed to protect the brain from concussions-so what we need is something to protect the brain, because trust me, your skull isn’t going to get cracked going head to head, but your brain will be bruised from being sloshed around in your head.

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