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Concussions are a hot topic in sports. During the course of a normal year, it has been shown that a high school football player will receive 700 – 1,000 blows to the head. Athletes who initiate contact with their head when they tackle or block are at even greater risk of suffering a concussion or catastrophic injury. For that reason, the National Federation of High School Sports has made it illegal to initiate contact with the head or facemask during games. But, participants in sports that involve contact like football, hockey and lacrosse, are wearing helmets, why do they still sustain concussions? Because helmet manufactures don’t design them to prevent concussion.

Riddell helmets contain a warning that “Contact in football may result in CONCUSSION-BRAIN INJURY which no helmet can prevent…” Similarly, Schutt helmets contain a warning that “NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PROTECT YOU FROM SERIOUS BRAIN AND/OR NECK INJURIES INCLUDING PARALYSIS OR DEATH. TO AVOID THESE RISKS, DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORTOF FOOTBALL.”

So, the athlete straps on his helmet and yet it can’t protect against concussion or brain injury? What’s up with that?

Is there one style or brand of helmet that is better than another?

Is there a way to determine if one helmet is safer than another? All football helmets contain a NOCSAE sticker or imprint to verify that it has met at least NOCSAE’s minimal protective standards. But, that’s just not enough. This is one instances where newer and more expensive is better. Only use the newest models. And, while manufacturers recommend that helmets be re-conditioned each year, and shouldn’t be used if they are more than 9 years old, reconditioning is really meaningless—except to replace broken parts. That is the case because the reconditioner is not improving the design of the helmet, but rather simply assuring schools that each helmet has all the right parts in it.

Having an athletic trainer or a trained professional available to fit the helmet is advisable to ensure that the helmet fits properly. Also, the helmet needs to be periodically re-checked for fit and unusual wear which may indicate helmet damage or faulty technique. Do what you can to maximize the protection afforded by your helmet. The best way to be assured maximum protection is to only buy the most expensive helmets. Also, check for the rating of helmets now published by Virginia Tech University, College of Engineering.


  1. Gravatar for steve

    Just look at the way they strap on the helmet. All helmets anchor to the lower jaw. It is an elastic joint that receives all the energy transmitted though the chin strap. Just like a boxers blow, these forces end up in the medial temporal lobe, exactly where CTE is now being found. Commonly known as pugilistica dementia until some fancy Harvard type gave it a new marketing label. This brain decease has been known in boxing for as far back as the sport itself. This is why they mandate mouth guards in boxing, yet many NFL and NHL players go without any oral protection. Boxers who develop "Glass jaw" are more prone to ko. Just like an athlete who becomes susceptible, research that focuses on this mechanism of concussion needs to become part of the solution. Forwarding this research is underway with the U.S. military yet many governing bodies are silent. Nocsae officials openly admit, they have no clue about any prevention theory, nothing. That is not good enough. (link removed)

  2. Gravatar for JOHN LOPEZ, ATC

    Please read below and attached link to story on the tragedy of John Mackey former Colts great! The sad reality of repeated head injuries that we knew so little about back in the good old days!

    Fourth & Goal President Bruce Laird's Statement on John Mackey - Pro football lost a giant Wednesday July 6th, when John Mackey passed away.

    His contributions to the game, the league, the union, and the players are legendary. His contributions to humanity – t improving the quality of life for the underserved – are even greater. John Mackey tackled every opponent – whether on the football field, in the courts, among those in need, or in the medical facilities where his dementia was diagnosed and treated – with passion, courage and commitment.

    John’s legacy will endure. His diagnosis of dementia (at age 59) was the catalyst for the founding of Fourth & Goal and, by extension, for the NFL’s focus on the ramifications of football injuries. The 88 Plan, named in John’s honor, provides care for those afflicted with dementia, Alzheimers and similar neurological diseases. Other resources have since been made available to retired players. Yet John’s struggle with dementia reminds us

    every day that the league, the union, the players, and the fans must be committed to player safety and to assisting those who, like John, suffer the consequences of football injuries.

    To those of us who knew him, who loved him and whose hearts broke as we saw his suffering with dementia, John’s big shoes can never be filled. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife Sylvia, his children and grandchildren. We will miss #88.

  3. Gravatar for JOHN LOPEZ, ATC
    JOHN LOPEZ, ATC,0,5569869,full.story

  4. Gravatar for Nathaniel Ehrlich
    Nathaniel Ehrlich


    You raise a great point. Were I a parent whose child was participating in ANY athletic function, I would want to know what action plan that organization has in place in the event of an emergency. I would certainly want an NATA Certified Athletic Trainer at a youth sport, club sport, elite travel, etc. event or practice. Just because an event/practice is not school sponsored, does not mean that the risk of injury is any less. Interestingly, from a legal perspective, those non-school events may present a risk of suit for the ATC as sovereign immunity would probably not apply. I would want to ensure that the organization has sufficient insurance coverage and were I the ATC covering those events/practice, I would want to make sure that I had sufficient personal coverage as well.


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