Football helmets are designed to reduce the risk of serious head injuries during play. But new research has found that the risk of suffering concussion after a head injury may be dependent on what type of helmet is worn. This is according to a study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery.
The research team, led by Steve Rowson of the Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), analyzed head impact data from eight college football teams that was collected between 2005 and 2010.
The data included 1,833 players who wore two different helmets - a Riddell VSR4 or a Riddell Revolution.
All of the helmets were equipped with sensors that measured the head acceleration for every impact each player suffered.
During the study period, more than 1 million head impacts were recorded.
The investigators then compared the rates of concussion between the two helmets.
Researchers say concussion risk for football players may depend on what type of helmet they wear during play.
Results showed that the players who wore the Revolution helmet had a 54% reduction in concussion risk, compared with players who wore the VSR4 helmet.
The researchers say that players who wore the VSR4 helmet had a higher number of head accelerations as a result of head impacts than players who wore the Revolution helmet.
This could be because the Revolution helmets are better at balancing the energy transfer from head impacts, say the investigators. This means a player will experience fewer head accelerations.
Commenting on the strength of the findings, Rowson says:
"This is the first study to control for the number of times players hit their heads when comparing helmet types.
No previous study has been able to account for this variable. Controlling for head impacts allows you to compare apples to apples. For example, you're not comparing a player in one helmet who rarely gets hit to a player in another helmet type who frequently gets hit."
Improved helmet designs needed to reduce concussion
Although the researchers point out that no football helmet will ever completely eliminate concussion risk, they note that their findings emphasize the need for better interventions to help reduce the risk.
"The most effective strategies are altering league rules and teaching players better techniques. These strategies focus on reducing the number of head impacts that players experience," says Stefan Duma, also of the Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences at Virginia Tech and co-author of the study. He adds:
"However, head impacts in football will always occur, even with the best rules and technique. This is where improving helmet design to best reduce concussion risk becomes critical. Our data clearly demonstrate that this is possible."
Medical News Today recently reported on a study revealing that middle-school girls who play soccer continue to play with concussion symptoms.