Helmet Manufacturers Can’t Back Up Their Concussion Prevention Claims

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Football Helmet
Less helmet manufacturers are marketing their products as able to outright prevent concussions these days, but you will still find claims that they reduce the chance of brain injury on almost every helmet in the market. Compared to going without a helmet at all, these claims may be true. But, recent studies show that no helmet brand seems to be any better at preventing brain injury than any other.

These helmet manufacturers often claim to have “laboratory research” showing their brand is better than the competition, but attempts to verify any of these claims by actual researchers suggests otherwise.

A research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin presented findings today at a national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics showing that all major helmet manufacturers are essentially equal.

The Los Angeles Times reports the researchers tracked 1,332 high school football players from 36 schools during the 2012 season. They were surveyed before the season began regarding their injury history and demographic information. Then, athletic trainers from the schools kept detailed records of the incidence and severity of concussions as the season progressed.

Before the season began, 171 players (13 percent) told the researchers they had experienced a sports related concussion in the previous 12 months. Through the course of the season, 116 additional concussions were recorded by 115 players (8.6 percent of athletes in the study).

The researchers compared the concussion rates for each type of helmet warn by players, but they found no statistical difference based on brand or the year the helmet was made. The rate of concussions for players wearing Riddell helmets was 9.5 percent, compared to 8.1 percent of players wearing Schutt helmets, and 6.7 percent of players wearing Xenith brand helmets. The minute differences present can be attributed by the popularity of brands within the league, and thus were not statistically different.

These findings run contrary to claims of almost every helmet manufacturer available to the public, so the researchers emphasized caution when choosing a helmet based on manufacturer claims. Study leader Dr. Margaret Alison Brooks, an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, released a statement specifically addressing the issue.

She asked, “Despite what manufacturers might claim, newer and more expensive equipment may not reduce concussion risk. So is it worth the significant extra cost to families and schools?”

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