Here at AB, we write a lot about concussions and player safety. We write about recovering from concussions. If it deals with concussions, it's always a popular topic with our readers.

With football season fast approaching, the topic of keeping players safe in our country's favorite — and admittedly most violent — game is back in the forefront.

Last September, we ran a cover story discussing how helmets were at the center of the battle to tame concussions. As the article says, "New technology is altering the way coaches, players and parents think about helmets and how they protect athletes' heads."

But is that new technology actually doing any good? New research would say no.

Helmets like this one from Schutt Sports incorporate new technology that wasn't always available. But does it help prevent concussions?

This article published Thursday in the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier outlines some of the new technology helmet manufacturers have introduced:

On one company's website appears a claim that its helmet's shock absorbers provide an optimal response for both high and low energy hits, and the linear forces that can cause injuries.

In a statement released after being found liable by a Colorado jury for failing to warn players of the risks of concussions, another company still stressed that its helmet is " the most protective football headgear for the athlete."

Interestingly, a third manufacturer requires readers to agree to a concussion-risk disclaimer before they can even access its website.

Granted, none of those claims say the helmet will prevent or even reduce the chance of a concussion. As a noted helmet expert said in our cover story last year, "Helmets are not designed to prevent concussions."

And here's where the research comes in.

From the Post and Courier:

Dr. Timothy McGuine and other researchers at the University of Wisconsin collected data from 36 high schools in Wisconsin during the 2012 football season. Athletic trainers documented the brand, model and purchase year of each player's helmet. They also recorded types of mouthguards, the number of practices and games and the number of concussions that occurred.

In 2012, 8.5 percent of the players at those schools suffered sports-related concussions. The authors found no difference in the rate of concussion based on a player's age, size, year in school or competition level of his team. More importantly, they found no difference in the rate of concussion for players wearing helmets from different companies or from different purchase years.

So as your school gears up for another football season, it might be worth thinking twice about splurging for the latest and greatest headgear.

"Rather than parents spending an extra $100 or $200 on fancier helmets, they should spend an hour talking to their kids about the dangers of concussions," says the Post and Courier article author, Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist.

Finally, he ends with a point that will hit home with our audience here at AB:

"Athletic directors and coaches could spend money on hiring athletic trainers rather than buying the new expensive helmets. No one is more familiar or better trained in concussion management than the certified athletic trainers that work with football players every day. They can recognize an injured player's signs and symptoms, make a diagnosis and facilitate evaluation by doctors."

With football season just a few weeks away, it's something to keep in mind.

Michael Gaio is eMedia Editor of Athletic Business.
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Stephen Kanter, PT, DPT, ATC Friday, 19 July 2013
There are differences in quality of helmets, but the fitting needs to be specifically addressed so the helmet can do what it's primarily intended to do - prevent bone and soft tissue injury. Additionally, an improper, uncomfortable helmet can lead to decreased performance and reaction time which CAN increase risk of concussion. The helmet itself, whereas there is 'logical thought' to the idea that helmets (and mouthguards) globally prevent concussions, Dr. Geier recommendation should be understood. regardless of how much is spent on the helmet, a parent's discussion with their kid (with or without an MD or ATC onsite) is most significant!
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What did they find out about the different types of mouth guards?
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Per the comments above, fit is important but helmets, in any sport, are really designed to prevent skull fractures and not concussions. As my friend/colleague, a leader in helmet testing from the early days of standardizing testing of helmets, always says, you could put a football helmet on a hockey player and there would still be concussions. Rules infractions, head hits and the nature of contact sport with impulsive forces, among many factors, all contribute to a complex injury. Rotational forces and angular accelerations, both very difficult, if not impossible to control via the helmet, especially when athletes do not see them coming via blows to the head or body, are often seen as the root mechanism of many concussions/mTBI.
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Stephen Kanter, PT, DPT, ATC Friday, 19 July 2013
There are differences in quality of helmets, but the fitting needs to be specifically addressed so the helmet can do what it's primarily intended to do - prevent bone and soft tissue injury. Additionally, an improper, uncomfortable helmet can lead to decreased performance and reaction time which CAN increase risk of concussion. The helmet itself, whereas there is 'logical thought' to the idea that helmets (and mouthguards) globally prevent concussions, Dr. Geier recommendation should be understood. regardless of how much is spent on the helmet, a parent's discussion with their kid (with or without an MD or ATC onsite) is most significant!
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Stephen Kanter, PT, DPT, ATC Friday, 19 July 2013
Sorry for the duplicate post.

Bill, there are several mouth guard manufacturers who market their mouth guard as something that prevents concussions. The theory behind this deals with direct trauma to the face (specifically the mandible/jaw bone), which will transmit forces through the facial bones and TMJ, skull bones and eventually effecting to the brain. With the mouth guard, that force is said the be dispersed. Whereas it may have some validity for a specific type of trauma, most concussions are not from jaw bone based trauma (as suggested, in part, by RB's post)
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RobertinSeattle Friday, 19 July 2013
Simply stated in one word: NO.

There is no such thing as a helmet that can protect the brain from a concussion. Keep in mind that for decades Riddell promoted its products as the 'Official Helmet of the NFL,' inferring that their products had to be superior. But Riddell has now been named as a defendant in many of the concussion lawsuits currently filed by retired NFL players against their former employer. Turns out that Riddell had been paying millions a year in endorsement fees, resulting in even more millions in sales to pee wee, high school and college teams. It was an illusion. I suspect that with more liability litigation, all claims of protection will soon be disappearing.

You do not, in fact, even need to hit your head to sustain a concussion. It's been shown that in a car collision, you only need to be going 9 mph! How is this possible? If you've ever had a chance to look at the inside of a skull, you'll see calcified ridges protruding on the inside that actually correspond closely to the ridges on the outer surface of your brain. These hardened ridges settle in to the brain's ridges as you grow and can be quite sharp. Imagine just rocking or shaking your head abruptly; these sharp skull ridges will tear into your gelatin-like brain. That's what happens during any impact regardless of whether or not you take a direct hit to your head. And it's also been shown that those scars can develop into scab-like material now defined as CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), which can lead to all kinds of problems later such as early onset dementia and Alzheimers Disease. These discoveries will reinforce the long-term damages that retired football players are currently seeking in their litigation because of the years of negligence the NFL has continued in denying the damages while providing 'doctors' on the sidelines who preached the minimal effects of those concussions.
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Byron Williams Monday, 22 July 2013
Playing football from age 10 to 36 (Pee Wee to the Pros), and presently hosting and directing youth football camps. I know there is a product out there that was invented with the Kevlar technology. This products and research shows an severity index reduction of sports related injuries. The unequal Kevlar state of the art protective system can reduce the blunt force trauma to the Head, Body, Foot and custom for high impact sports. For more information please visit: www.exoactionsports.com
Byron Williams
President-NFLPA Dallas Chapter
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In the aptly named 'Throwaway Players: The Concussion Crisis from Peewee Football to the NFL,' author Gay Culverhouse (daughter of longtime Tampa Bay Bucs owner Hugh) explains that you can sustain brain trauma even without a collision. A top-tier point guard, running full speed down the court and stopping suddenly to shoot a jump shot, produces a similar brain impact. It's all about the head stopping and the brain continuing its forward motion.

I'm not an expert on brain trauma or helmet technology. It seems the logic in helmet development is to absorb the shock of the collision. However, unless they also find a way to slow the rate of deceleration of the head, the brain will continue to collide with the cranium.

High-level football is the worst scenario. NFL linemen accelerate to full speed in a step or two. That's 60-70 full-speed, head-to-head collisions every game. Add practices and you begin to understand why NFL players' life expectancy is 69% of the general population's (55 yrs vs. 80 yrs). Mike Webster, the longtime center for the Pittsburgh Steelers known as Iron Mike for his string of 8 years without missing a game during his 12-year career, died at the age of 50. His autopsy revealed brain deterioration equivalent to 25,000 auto accidents with whiplash. That's not a misprint: 25,000.

That's why 3000 former NFL players are part of a class-action suit against the NFL, alleging the league knew about the dangers of returning too quickly from a concussion, but withheld that info. Sounds a lot like the 'what did they know and when did they know it' aspect of the tobacco torts.

Last year, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner said publicly that, knowing what he knows about the risks, he'd not allow his son to play football. If enough mothers and fathers become educated about the likelihood of their children ending up in a premature Alzheimer's-like state, and they respond by prohibiting their sons from playing, the game is in serious trouble.

IMO, the NFL's public service ads touting their $100 million investment in player-safety research masks a tepid commitment. $100m sounds like a lot of money, but that amount is over 10 years; $10m per year is 0.33% of annual revenue. Not much more than pocket change in the big scheme of things. Once again, the league proves that it cares about money, not players.