How well do football helmets protect players from concussions?

February 17, 2014, American Academy of Neurology

A new study finds that football helmets currently used on the field may do little to protect against hits to the side of the head, or rotational force, an often dangerous source of brain injury and encephalopathy. The study released today will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014.

"Protection against concussion and complications of 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, 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, Fla. Conidi is also the vice chair of the American Academy of Neurology's Sports Neurology Section.

For the study, researchers modified the standard drop test system, approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, that tests impacts and helmet safety. The researchers used a crash test dummy head and neck to simulate impact. Sensors were also placed in the dummy's head to measure linear and rotational responses to repeated 12 mile-per-hour impacts. The scientists conducted 330 tests to measure how well 10 popular football helmet designs protected against , including: 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 study found that football helmets on average reduced the risk of traumatic brain injury by only 20 percent compared to not wearing a helmet. Of the 10 helmet brands tested, the Adams a2000 provided the best protection against concussion and the Schutt Air Advantage the worst. Overall, the Riddell 360 provided the most protection against closed head injury and the Adams a2000 the least, despite rating the best against concussion.

"Alarmingly, those that offered the least protection are among the most popular on the field," said Conidi. "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."

The study found that football helmets provided protection from linear impacts, or those leading to bruising and skull fracture. Compared to tests using dummies with no helmets, leading reduced the risk of skull fracture by 60 to 70 percent and reduced the risk of focal brain tissue bruising by 70 to 80 percent.

Explore further: New study finds differences in concussion risk between football helmets

Related Stories

New study finds differences in concussion risk between football helmets

January 31, 2014
Football helmets can be designed to reduce the risk of concussions, according to a new study by some of the nation's leading concussion researchers published today in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Can the 'right' helmet prevent concussions?

October 28, 2013
While many football helmet and mouth guard manufacturers claim that their equipment will lessen impact forces and reduce concussion risk, neither a specific brand nor a higher cost were associated with fewer concussions in ...

Virginia Tech announces 2013 football helmet ratings: One more added to the 5 star mark

May 15, 2013
Virginia Tech released today the results of its 2013 adult football helmet ratings, designed to identify differences between the abilities of helmets to reduce the risk of concussion. A total of four helmets achieved a 5 ...

Virginia Tech announces football helmet ratings for reducing concussion risk

May 10, 2011
Virginia Tech released today the results of a new rating system of adult football helmets that is designed to reduce the risk of concussions. One currently manufactured helmet received the top "5 star" rating, and a total ...

Study results reinforce importance of helmet use

June 13, 2013
Bicycle helmets certified to Australia's national standard significantly reduce the causes of head, skull and brain injury - linear and angular head accelerations, and the impact force of a crash - a new laboratory study ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

January 16, 2018
Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: "No, that's hilarious. [...] It's like ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.