MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin reports that its new study showed no difference in the rate of concussions based on what helmet brand is used.
The university recently completed the first large-scale, prospective study in a field-based sports setting to examine if the rate of concussion is affected by the protective equipment that is worn by high school football players.
Not only did the brand not make a difference in the rate of concussions, there also was no difference in the severity of those concussions, either.
The research concluded that well-maintained and fitted football helmets remain important to reduce the risk of skull fracture and intracranial hemorrhage, but there is serious doubt to whether a helmet can ever be designed to prevent concussions.
In addition, the research found a similar concussion risk regardless of the age of the helmet.
Dr. Alison Brooks, assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, spearheaded the study with Dr. Tim McGuine. Brooks called out the increased risk among previously injured athletes.
“Players in this study who had a history of previous concussion were at higher risk of sustaining another concussion, regardless of the helmet brand worn,” said Brooks. “Rather than focus on the belief that a specific helmet can ‘prevent’ concussions, which is not supported by the current scientific literature, our efforts may be better spent educating players, parents and coaches about the increased risk of concussion in these previously concussed young athletes.”
A concussion in football is a very complex event involving different and changing forces, linear (straight motion or direct hit) and rotational (circular motion of head or torque) accelerations, helmet fit, player position, impact duration, player concussion history and overall health.
Schutt Sports has the two highest 5 STAR helmets in 2014, yet the company admits that the ratings do not support a conclusion that the helmets will limit or prevent concussions.
“Schutt Sports would never represent to somebody that they’re not going to get a concussion if they wear one of our helmets,” said Robert Erb, CEO of Schutt Sports. “As a manufacturer of a helmet considered by this rating system to be the best available, I believe telling people that an athlete is less likely to get a concussion if they use a 5 STAR helmet is irresponsible. The best helmet is the one that carries NOCSAE certification, fits the player, fits the position, is configured with the proper mask and the player is comfortable in it.”
Consumers should also know that the rating given to helmets applies only to size large adult.
According to the Virginia Tech website, “It is possible that the same helmet models of different size may produce different results; however, we do not have any data on this, and we only tested large helmets as a first step.”
No adult X-Large, Medium, Small, X-Small or any youth-size helmets were tested as part of this rating. Until other sizes are tested, the only helmet that can claim any STAR rating is the adult large.
According to an independent statistical review of the Virginia Tech test data there is no significant statistical difference between 5 STAR, 4 STAR and 3 STAR helmets.