Concussion risk for football players may not be reduced by helmet add-ons designed to reduce injury
Scientists are always looking for new ways to prevent concussions — a particular concern for athletes. Some of the most recent innovations, however, may not work as well as hoped.
Companies have been developing football helmet add-ons designed to offer more protection against concussions. But a new study found that these latest innovations may not lower the risk of head injury.
Every year, emergency rooms deal with hundreds of thousands of sports- or recreation-related head injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of those injuries come from football.
John Lloyd, PhD, a brain injury specialist in San Antonio, FL, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, wrote this research with Francis Conidi, DO, at the Florida Center for Headache & Sports Neurology in Port St. Lucie.
“Our study suggests that despite many products targeted at reducing concussions in players, there is no magic concussion prevention product on the market at this time,” Dr. Lloyd said in a press release.
Drs. Lloyd and Conidi tested football helmet add-ons like outer soft-shell layers, spray treatments, helmet pads and fiber sheets. The specific products were Guardian Cap, UnEqual Technologies’ Concussion Reduction Technology, Shockstrips and Helmet Glide.
Crash test dummy heads were outfitted with football helmets featuring these add-ons. These researchers hit these dummies' heads five times from heights of 1 meter (about 3 feet), 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) and 2 meters (6.5 feet). Drs. Lloyd and Conidi measured linear acceleration, angular velocity and angular accelerations.
Linear acceleration is the rate of change of the position of the head (or speed of the head) over time as it moves in a straight line, according to Dr. Conidi. Angular velocity (sometimes called rotational velocity) is the speed at which the head rotates. Angular acceleration is the change in speed of the head as it rotates.
These researchers found that the Guardian Cap, Concussion Reduction Technology and Shockstrips reduced linear accelerations by about 11 percent — compared to helmets without add-ons. Angular accelerations were decreased by only 2 percent. Helmet Glide appeared to have no effect.
Dr. Lloyd stressed that angular accelerations are believed to be the major forces behind concussions.
Dr. Conidi told dailyRx News that one way to protect against concussion is to learn the proper way to tackle and absorb a tackle. He also advised that athletes perform pre- and in-season strengthening exercises.
“Stronger neck muscles can reduce angular and rotational acceleration of the head which is felt to be the mechanism of concussion,” Dr. Conidi said.
It’s important to limit tackling in younger athletes and teach athletes and coaches to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion and the need for immediate removal from play of anyone suspected of suffering a concussion, Dr. Conidi said.
The CDC estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur in the US each year. Brain injuries from sports or recreation send more than 170,000 children and teens to the ER each year.
This study was released online Feb. 25 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, April 18 to 25.
BRAINS, Inc., and the Seeing Stars Foundation funded this research. Dr. Lloyd and his company, BRAINS, Inc., are working to develop sports helmets that provide advanced protection against concussion and brain injury.