Obviously a football player would never go onto the field without his/her helmet. But a new study concludes that helmets may provide a false sense of security when it comes to protecting players against the effects of concussion.
Concussions a Major Risk for Young Athletes
One of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Frank Conidi stated “protection against concussion and complications of brain injury is especially important for young players, including elementary and middle school, high school and college athletes, who’s still developing brains are more susceptible to the lasting effects of trauma”. Conidi is the Vice Chair of the American Academy of Sports Neurology Section.
Only a 20% Risk Reduction
Researchers tested the ten most popular football helmet designs to see how well they protected against traumatic brain injury. The office of the study found that football helmets only reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by about 20% compared to wearing no helmet at all. While 20% is not insignificant it is a surprisingly low figure and one that seems counterintuitive.
However, the office of the study found that while helmets may protect players against trauma from linear assaults. In other words, direct linear blow to the head, helmets do little to protect against injury from rotational forces or blows to the side of the head.
You can read more in my article How does the brain get injured? on our website.
False Sense of Security?
Conidi stated “biomechanics researchers have long understood that rotational forces, not linear forces, are responsible for serious brain damage including concussion, brain injury complications and brain bleeds. Yet generations of football and other sports participants have been under the assumption that their brains are protected by their investment in headwear protection.”
I have not been able to find any comparable studies done on rugby players. One wonders if there are similar incidents of brain injury and resulting chronic traumatic encephalopathy among current and former rugby players.
If studies show that the incidents of traumatic brain injuries is significantly less in professional rugby players then perhaps the National Football League and amateur football organizations should give some consideration towards less protective gear rather than more gear which may provide a false sense of security.