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Football Helmets Provide Different Protection Levels against Concussions

Update Date: Feb 18, 2014 11:32 AM EST

Several studies conducted in the past have found contradicting evidence about the effectiveness of helmets in sports. Some researchers reported that certain types of helmets could be more protective while others concluded that helmets in general cannot prevent concussion. In a new study, researchers reported that football helmets across the board provide varying degrees of protection. However, not one helmet protected against all potential injuries suffered from blows to the head.

For this study, the research team revised and modified the standard drop test system, which is used to measure impacts and helmet safety. The test system was approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. In order to test how safe helmets are in protecting athletes from rotational force, the researchers created a simulation. They used a crash test dummy that was equipped with sensors placed on the head. The dummy suffered repeated 12 miles-per-hour impacts. The sensors were able to pick up on the linear and rotational responses to the hits.

Overall, the researchers carried out 330 tests on 10 popular football helmets. These helmets were Adams a2000, Rawlings Quantum, Riddell 360, Riddell Revolution, Riddell Revolution Speed, Riddell VSR4, Schutt Air Advantage, Schutt DNA Pro+, Xenith X1 and Xenith X2.

The researchers discovered that all of the helmets were able to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by just 20 percent in comparison to not wearing a helmet. The researchers also reported that helmets were able to protect the head from bruising and skull fractures caused by linear impacts. The leading football helmets were able to lower the risk of skull fractures by 60 to 70 percent. These helmets also reduced the risk of focal brain tissue bruising by 70 to 80 percent.

The team concluded that the Adams a2000 had the best protection rate against concussions whereas the Schutt Air Advantage had the worst protection rate. The researchers concluded that overall, the Riddell 360 had the best protection against closed head injury and surprisingly, the Adams a2000 had the least protection.

"Protection against concussion and complications of brain injury is especially important for young players, including elementary and middle school, high school and college athletes, whose still-developing brains are more susceptible to the lasting effects of trauma," said study co- author Frank Conidi, MD, DO, MS.

Conidi added, reported by Medical Xpress, "Alarmingly, those that offered the least protection are among the most popular on the field Biomechanics researchers have long understood that rotational forces, not linear forces, are responsible for serious brain damage including concussion, brain injury complications and brain bleeds. Yet generations of football and other sports participants have been under the assumption that their brains are protected by their investment in headwear protection."

Conidi is the director of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology and Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology at Florida State University College of Medicine in Port Saint Lucie, FL and the vice chair of the American Academy of Neurology's Sports Neurology Section.

The study's findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

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