Football Helmets Only Reduce Risk of Concussion by 20%

Last week, the American Academy of Neurobiology published a report by Dr. John Lloyd and Dr. Frank Conidi that modern football helmets only reduce the risk of concussion by 20%.

This study, associated with the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology and the Florida State University College of Medicine, tested ten different types of modern helmets to measure their ability to reduce concussions. Surprisingly, football helmets only reduce the risk of concussion by 20% on average.

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Researchers modified the drop test system, which is approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment to test impacts and helmet safety. In this study, sensors were placed in crash test dummies’ heads in order to measure linear and rotational responses to repeated 12-mph impacts.

Football helmets are effective at providing protection from linear impacts, which are associated with bruising and skull fracture. On average, helmets reduce the risk of skull fracture by 60-70% and reduce the risk of focal brain tissue bruising by 70-80%. However, linear impacts are not the mechanism associated with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

“Biomechanics researchers have long understood that rotation forces, not linear forces, are responsible for serious brain damage including concussion, brain injury complications, and brain bleeds,” explained Dr. Conidi, “Yet generations of football and other sports participants have been under the assumption that their brains are protected by their investment in headwear protection.”

The difficulty with reducing the risk of concussions stems from the inability to reduce the effects of rotational and side impacts, which are so common on the football field. Further studies are needed observe how helmets can reduce these risks and help limit TBIs, which are increasingly the most detrimental injuries in sports.

 

 

 

Source: American Academy of Neurobiology. “Comparison of Common Football Helmets in Preventing Concussion, Hemorrhage and Skull Fracture Using a Modified Drop Test”. 17 February 2014.

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