Helmet design and concussion prevention

Latest research confirms design makes a difference

Reducing player concussions is a top priority in the world of football. Despite earlier blog postings citing doubts about the protective ability of advanced helmets, the latest research says advances in helmet design can make a huge impact on lowering the number of concussions for football players of all ages.

 The latest research

A recent study was the first to be conducted on the playing field, not in the lab. Two differently-designed Riddell helmets, the VSR4 and the Revolution, were fitted with sensors and tested on nearly 2000 college players over a five-year span. The Riddell Revolution helmets showed a 54 percent reduction in concussion risk compared to the VSR4. Player participants were from schools such as UNC, Virginia Tech and Brown. Data from the sensors, engineered to measure biomechanical head acceleration, was collected from more than one million head impacts.

“The Revolution is slightly bigger and has more padding, with a different shell configuration,” said Stefan Duma, the head of the Virginia Tech–Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. Both those elements result in lowered head acceleration, which in turn offers a significantly lower risk of concussion.

It’s not the helmet company, it’s the helmet design

The three elements involved in football concussions are the game rules, the coaching and helmet quality. A weak link in that triple combination raises the risk of concussion.

Riddell’s Revolution was designed 10 years ago, but until 2011 the VSR4 was the preferred helmet of over 50 percent of NFL and college coaches. The VSR4 was designed over 20 years ago. There are newer helmets on the market. Players, parents and coaches should take the time and effort to research a variety of helmet designs and choose the equipment that offers the best head-impact protection.

For more information on lowering concussion risks, please visit Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance for the concussion resources section of our risk management content.

Source: Loren Grush, “Football helmet design,” foxnews.com, 31 Jan. 2014.