Speaking of Helmets, NOCSAE Press Release

I was forwarded this NOCSAE press release from a very prominent AT in the NCAA, and although the sender declined to comment, it was his intention to get mine.  I feel it would be good to comment and publish this press release here.  You can find the press release, dated July 3, 2013 HERE.

The purpose of the information provided by NOCSAE was to clear up some perceived and often misunderstandings about the Virgina Tech Helmet Ratings for football helmets.  Like NOCASE, I encourage the research into helmets, the first line of defense against blunt force trauma to the head in collision sports (rodeo included).  However, there are some things that may need explaining.

Now by no means am I taking sides here, I feel Stefan Duma and his cohorts do a tremendous job, as well as the current helmet makers.  I feel that everyone is doing their part to provide the safest equipment possible.  As one person in the helmet industry has told me on many occasions “Don’t you think if we knew or had ways to decrease concussions they would already be on our product?”  He is exactly right.

Back to the post at hand here, the press release notes some issues that the STAR rating system has;

“NOCSAE is concerned that some helmets in the 2013 STAR rating, without a change in design or materials, were moved from a 3 STAR rating to a 5 STAR rating after being retested, but not all brands/models were retested. Another helmet model retested in 2013 went from a 4 STAR to a 3 STAR with no design changes.  If all helmets had been retested, it appears reasonable to believe that other helmets also may have moved into and out of different STAR categories.”

This is an issue for everyone, why did some helmet models get retested and others did not?  And why did some change in STAR value when nothing had been changed on the helmet?

More importantly, if this database and testing is designed for concussions then why are factors such as rotational and angular force not taken into consideration;

“The consensus of scientific experts agree that rotational accelerations are involved in many, if not almost all, concussive events, although no correlated injury threshold for rotational accelerations has been found.”

Moreover, why – as has been discussed in the comment section of our previous posts about helmets – has fit not been approached?  I assume the fit in the laboratory is perfect each time, great!  How well do these types of helmets do when Johny and Billy play with their helmets flopping around in the wind?

There are too many factors to include when considering concussions in the sport of football, let alone all sports.  This is a complex injury all the way around; from incidence to reporting to recovery.  Pinning the hopes of salvaging a player from concussion based upon a rating system is flawed thinking by anyone (if you don’t think people are making, what they thing are informed decisions, choices based on this alone you are nuts).

I am not advocating taking helmets away or not trying to get them better, that should be a priority to some.  I am merely trying to point out that with all the information about concussions out there why are we relying upon perfect/ideal laboratory situations to make decisions.

For best protection, in my opinion, players must be outfitted in a helmet – when properly fitted – provides comfort.  As one commenter stated take a look at Peyton Manning’s head after a game, that red mark on the forehead, is what every helmet should fit like.

Furthermore, concussions are not limited to linear forces; they are a result from acceleration and deceleration of the brain within the skull.  That can be forward-backwards, side-to-side, up-and-down or in most cases a violent combination of all of those.

6 thoughts on “Speaking of Helmets, NOCSAE Press Release

  1. Danny July 23, 2013 / 15:51

    Great viewpoint Dustin as always. What about the recent NOCSAE knee jerk about third party attachments to helmets (pads, covers, sensors etc). What’s your view?

    • Dustin Fink July 23, 2013 / 20:15

      Knee jerk may be correct, but from their perspective the statement;

      “NOCSAE helmet standards are specific to models which are identical in all aspects, except as
      to size. The testing required to support the certification is also specific to the model being
      certified. NOCSAE standards require that any change in configuration, padding, shell
      geometry, or protective system requires a new model designation with separate certification
      testing. The addition of after-market items by anyone that changes or alters the protective
      system by adding or deleting protective padding to the inside or outside of the helmet, or which
      changes or alters the geometry of the shell or adds mass to the helmet, whether temporary or
      permanent, voids the certification of compliance with the NOCSAE standard.”

      Is both understandable and necessary. Its the same if you add aftermarket “stuff” to an engine or transmission, it voids a warranty… I can’t say I completely agree with this, but it does make sense…

  2. Michael Hopper July 23, 2013 / 21:22

    It’s not the warranty of a helmet I’d be worried about. It’s the liability that comes along with the protective device. If I go add an after-market piece of a Schutt helmet and something horrible happens, why would Schutt back up that particular helmet? They wont! Because it’s been modified and those modifications may have altered the helmet’s ability to protect.

    • Dustin Fink July 24, 2013 / 07:36


      You are correct it not the warranty, just an analogy… Liability is the reason… Basically NOCSAE and the helmet makers are making it clear that if something does happen with aftermarket add on’s they will not be responsible… Nor should they be…

      • Michael Hopper July 24, 2013 / 08:58

        Absolutely. Just relaying what I was told by helmet rep last week…

  3. Glenn Beckmann July 24, 2013 / 09:46

    As we have said all along, Schutt Sports is not in the business of standing in the way of science, research or advancements in knowledge. But, as a business – in a highly litigious market – we must protect ourselves, our employees and the company’s assets. As Michael Hopper said, an alteration MAY have an effect on a helmet’s protective capabilities and performance. If you treated an athlete and told him to not do something, but he did it anyway, would you allow him to blame you if something went wrong? Would you want the legal system to allow him to blame you?

    We would prefer that our helmets, which leave our facility fully warrantied and insured, not be altered with the addition of third party products. But – customers are free to do that, if they wish. After all, they’ve purchased the helmet. It’s theirs. They own it.

    What we have asked all participants in the after-market product category to do, however, is inform potential customers of all the risks involved. Voiding of helmet warranty, loss of NOCSAE certification and insertion into the liability stream. Those are significant factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not to use 3rd party products.

    If third party product makers want to eliminate the worry of losing NOCSAE certification then they need to test their products under the current NOCSAE processes and have them certified.

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