Gregg Easterbrook, writing for Page 2 on ESPN.com in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback wrote an article about the rating system for helmets that Dr. Stefan Duma presented in late spring. As we covered it here; explaining that his data was in concert with our observational data on helmets. In the Easterbrook article titled “Virginia Tech helmet research crucial“;
Now all that has changed. Researchers at Virginia Tech have produced the first brand-by-brand, model-by-model ranking for the likely concussion resistance of helmets. A star-rating system modeled on crash safety rankings for automobiles, the rankings clearly identify the best and worst helmets. Virginia Tech researchers give high marks to these helmets: the Riddell Speed, Riddell Revolution, Riddell Revolution IQ; the Schutt Ion 4D and Schutt DNA; and the Xenith X1. The Virginia Tech researchers give medium grades to the Schutt Air XP and Schutt Air Advantage. The Virginia Tech rankings warn players not to wear these helmets: the Riddell VSR4 and the Adams A2000.
Now the chilling part: the VSR4 — Virginia Tech’s second-lowest-rated helmet — was the most common helmet in the NFL last season. The VSR4 is widely worn in college and high school, too. Immediately after the Virginia Tech findings were released, Riddell advised football teams to stop using the VSR4, long the company’s best seller.
Our data showed us that a staggering 32.85% of ALL concussions last year occurred in the VSR4, the next closest model was the Revolution Speed helmet, the top rated, at 18.25% of all concussions. We have called on (but really we are just one guy with a blog) for the NFL to have more strong language in advocating the removal of the VSR4. It is good to see that small steps are being taken in that direction. As Will Carroll put it (surmising here); would you rather be driving around in a 90’s Fiero or a 2008 Volvo?
Easterbrook also looked more in-depth at why Duma had the impetus to do such a study;
But from knowing what happens to the human brain in a car or helicopter crash, he knew that what happens in a football helmet-to-helmet collision can’t be pretty. Virginia Tech researchers led by Duma approached the football team about placing tiny accelerometers into helmets. (This has been tried at several football programs over the past decade, and may be tried in the NFL soon.) The results were disturbing: The most violent collisions can subject the brain to about 120 times the force of gravity. “Routine” hits equate to 20 to 40 times the force of gravity.
And before anyone gets the idea that Dr. Duma is a guy who does not like sports, you would be wrong as he loves the game of football and even thinks that Virginia Tech is a special place when it comes to pigskin!