The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment approved a revised football helmet standard requiring helmet testing for certain concussion-causing forces on June 20. This is the first helmet standard to include testing for concussion-specific forces.
The current standard requires helmets to pass tests involving multiple linear impacts delivered in various conditions, locations and strengths. An addition to this standard tests helmet performance under a combination of forces associated with concussion-type injuries, specifically those that make a player’s head spin suddenly. This is called rotational acceleration, which causes twisting and stretching of the brain within the skull as the head makes a rapid direction change.
If no revisions to the standard are made within the next year, the NOCSAE board will likely finalize the standard and require its implementation by manufacturers by June 2016.
“Our next step will be to establish a threshold that helmets must meet to reduce concussion risk. NOCSAE will continue to challenge the scientific, medical and manufacturing communities to explore solutions for enhanced athlete safety,” said Robert Cantu, NOCSAE vice president and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute.
Concussion warning signs and prevention
NOCSAE stresses that concussion-proof helmets are not likely, and that effective concussion prevention requires measures be taken both on and off the field. Ensuring proper helmet fit, teaching athletes proper techniques, enforcing the rules and making sure athletes follow recommended time off before returning to play are necessary steps in reducing concussion risks.
It’s not clear whether helmet changes really will help, cautioned Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players Association is cautious about whether helmet changes will actually make a difference. “[W]e’re committed to making sure we look at what are the most cutting-edge helmet testing standards available. This is a step in the right direction,” he said.
Millions of youth play school or community sports. The number of those suffering concussions is unclear because of how many go undiagnosed. Emergency rooms across the country treated 250,000 people 19 and younger for concussions and other sports- or recreation-related brain injuries in 2009, according to The Institute of Medicine.
Sources: Associated Press, 20 June, 2014 and www.nocsae.org