On Paul Anderson’s (@PaulD_Anderson) NFL Concussion Litigation blog a guest post went up the other day taking on the ever-growing concern of concussion “prevention” products. The article was written by Andrew M. Belcher, MD (@the_jockdoc) and plainly explains it is buyer beware, as concussions are more than protection for the skull;
So then what we really need to prevent concussions are seatbelts and airbags for our brains inside of our skulls. Here’s one more example to make it clear. Shaken baby syndrome is caused by shaking a screaming baby back and forth to make them stop crying. Even though their head never hits anything, the shaking leads to brain damage. Would wearing a baby helmet have helped? Of course not. So how can a helmet possibly eliminate concussions in football. It can’t. Any protective device that claims to prevent concussions in a contact sport is false advertising and may be giving athletes a false sense of security. How can athletes be well informed of the risks they are taking when the advertising by equipment manufacturers minimizes the risks? The only way to prevent concussions is not to step on the field in the first place.
Very succinct and spot on, concussions are not mainly caused by linear forces to the skull; they are created by acceleration and deceleration of the brain INSIDE the skull. Products that claim that they prevent concussions are borderline fraudulent, as there is NO study available that any current product can prevent concussions. Sure, some can attenuate certain (see linear) forces to the head region, but other than a HANS device there is nothing in sport that limits the acceleration/deceleration or rotational properties of brain trauma. In fact, increasing the weight of the head can increase mass, therefore by the laws of Physic’s, increase the overall force.
There is no guessing where I stand on the claims put forth by mouth gear companies, and for the other products that seem to be popping up everywhere claiming reduction in concussions or prevention of concussions they too are on my shit list. Deceptive marketing with this hot topic can not only cause lost money, it could cause a false sense of protection and “lessening” of the injury, at least the respect of it. Dr. Belcher summed it up nicely;
Necessity IS the mother of invention and we will now be seeing the market get flooded with inventions that are necessary to stem the tide of the concussion crisis in sports today. New technologies and new ideas will continue to develop and concussion prevention applications will take on avenues that we hadn’t even previously considered. We will see helmets made from all kinds of materials, with built in sensors and airbags to minimize impacts and indicators to warn us when we should evaluate an athlete for a concussion. Are these ideas all well intentioned? Of course they are. Are they going to help reduce head injuries? I hope so. Are they going to prevent concussions? Absolutely not. The devices are well-intentioned. The marketing is not.