If you follow me on twitter you know that I made a comment about the recent statement from Aaron Rodgers – concussed Super Bowl MVP – about helmets;
In his remarks he said the helmet he now wears, compared to the one he wore when he started in the league in 2005, has prevented him from “a couple” of concussions, including one against the New York Giants in a playoff game last season.
Rodgers was part of a panel of other quarterbacks that were also Super Bowl MVP’s hosted/moderated by Bob Costas – apparently a charity event. Regardless if there was an actual quote from Rodgers about prevention of concussions from helmets or it was simply inferred by the context, it is not correct and could provide false hope to others.
Helmets were designed to attempt to eradicate skull fractures and brain bleeds, the most heinous of brain injuries that were felling many players at the turn of the 20th century. As technology has progressed we have seen fewer and fewer of this often life-threatening injury; unfortunately it does still occur. The helmet shell along with the interior padding is designed to absorb the massive linear forces that cold fracture a skull or provide enough trauma to rupture vessels in the head.
Concussions are a slight bit different – even though both are brain injuries – a concussion is mainly a neurometabolic and microscopic structural issue. Concussions are set off in a variety of ways but the biggest culprit is angular acceleration/deceleration and rotation of the skull (most commonly those type of collisions in ALL sports that are unanticipated). This is why helmets will never prevent a concussion; the brain is floating in the skull so rapid movements are eventually translated to the brain in a coup/contra-coup fashion.
However, I did make an observation/theory about newer helmets versus old helmets; the linear forces that could be translated to the head at a subconcussive level (those not producing immediate signs/symptoms) may be attenuated better with the newer helmet technology – mainly in the interior padding and helmet fit.
As we begin to fear the accumulation of all the 800-1200 hits a high schooler can take in one season it is imperative that we make sure the best possible technology is being used. This also goes for the “big-boys” too, they must set the example; the NFL should outlaw any helmet that is technologically older than the Riddell Revolution. Those previous helmets use mainly foam (with the small air bladder in some), the current interior padding like the TPU cushioning of Schutt or the shock absorbing pods of Xenith provide the wearer better chances at attenuating the smaller lower level forces. Which we are now seeing as a possible huge culprit in the concussion issue.
So Mr. Rodgers, if you could please understand that helmets do not prevent concussions and make sure you state it that way in the future I would greatly appreciate it. The only way to prevent the concussion is to reduce exposure or remove hitting; the latter not being an option in mine or anyone’s mind for high school and older.
If you were wondering Rodgers opted out of the COMPLETELY OUTDATED Riddell VSR4 (all players should be banned from wearing this helmet) and went with the Schutt AiR XP Elite