Headgear on the football playing field does not necessarily increase player protection from concussion, according to emerging research, according to a new report presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando.
Manufacturers have touted that special headgear will reduce concussion risks. “Despite what manufacturers might claim, newer and more expensive equipment may not reduce concussion risk,” said lead co-investigator Dr. Margaret Alison Brooks, MD, MPH, FAAP in a news release. “So is it worth the significant extra cost to families and schools?” Some 40,000 sport-related concussions are reported in United States high schools each year, according to Counsel and Beal.
The researchers followed 1,332 teenage football players at 36 high schools over the 2012 football season. In all, 115 players—8.5 percent—suffered some type of sports-related injury. The players wore helmets from one of three manufacturers—Riddell, Schutt, or Xenith and no difference in concussion rates was seen based on the brand or type of helmet, or the year of manufacture, according to FoxNews. In all, 52 percent of the helmets worn by players were manufactured by Riddell, 35 percent were manufactured by Schutt, and 13 percent were manufactured by Xenith. Also, 39 percent of the helmets were purchased in 2011-2013, while 33 percent were purchased in 2009-2010, and 28 percent, in 2002- 2008, according to Counsel and Beal.
The researchers also indicated that 61 percent of the players involved in the research wore generic mouth guards; 39 percent wore mouth guards custom fitted by dental professionals or that were marketed to minimize sports-related concussions, Counsel and Beal reported. The research also revealed an unexpected finding: Players who wore custom-fitted mouth guards actually experienced increased sports-related concussions than players wearing generic mouth guards.
Helmets do help in the prevention of skull fractures and scalp lacerations in football players; however, “because the brain is floating freely inside the skull, I think most experts doubt whether it is possible to ever develop a helmet design that can prevent concussion,” Brookes noted, according to Counsel and Beal.
Since 2003, a total of 25 deaths have occurred involving American high school football players, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, MaxPrep.com previously reported. Some 1.1 million teenagers played high school football in the U.S. in 2012, also according to the report, which indicated that 4.2 million played football that year from the youth to the NFL level.
Claims that a helmet is “concussion-proof” or is constructed of “anti-concussive” properties could be misleading, New York Attorney General (AG) Eric T. Schneiderman recently said, according to Law360. These claims could mislead parents and could potentially be dangerous to players and their parents, said Schneiderman. Some manufacturers are marketing so-called “aftermarket add-on” products for football helmets that include liners, bumpers, pads, and electronic devices that promise players reduced concussion risks despite, noted Schneiderman, that no data exists to indicate these claims are legitimate for kid players, according to Law360.
“Football helmets were developed to protect against massive head trauma, but unfortunately, we’re seeing more evidence they have not been designed to prevent less immediately catastrophic injuries like concussions,” said Long Island Republican State Senator Kemp Hannon, who sponsored state legislation that went into effect in 2012 mandating coaches, teachers, and other relevant personnel to undergo training on the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries and the criticality of appropriate medical treatment, explained Law360. “Despite some helmets being labeled ‘anti-concussion,’ this isn’t necessarily the case,” Hannon added.
“It’s important to remember that no helmet can fully prevent a concussion,” Schneiderman said. “Just as important, we must work to educate young athletes and their parents about how to reduce the risk of concussion and detect early warning signs on the field.”