As coaches and parents, the desire to keep the brains of young football players safe from concussion can be intense, and many are looking into new options that purportedly prevent traumatic brain injury and concussion. Over the past year there has been a particularly large upswing in the use of after-market helmet attachments such as bumpers, pads, and sensors that are marketed for concussion prevention. But, there is absolutely no science to back it up. There have been no studies that prove in any way that helmets or third-party attachments prevent or even reduce the severity of concussion.
To help respond to the surge in use of these helmet attachments, the National Operating Committee for Standards in Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), an independent body the creates performance standards for protective equipment, released a statement. In the statement, the NOCSAE state that no additional lining, padding, bumpers, or sensors inside a helmet were included in testing required for all helmets. Also, attaching these products voids the certification and helmet warranties.
The sad fact is, there is no protective equipment currently able to prevent concussion. Helmets do many other very important things such as reduce craniofacial injuries, skull fractures, and intracranial hemorrhage, but they weren’t designed to prevent concussions. More than one study has shown there is no difference in concussion rates between newer and older helmets, as well as no difference in concussion rate or severity based on helmet type.
The sensors appearing on the market are also being severely misunderstood. While researchers are using helmet sensors to attempt to identify thresholds for impact and acceleration that can cause concussion, they haven’t been proven to be reliable concussion diagnostic tools. As AAP News reports, these sensors are already known to produce false positive or miss concussions. Until we have a reliable standard for when concussions can occur, all these sensors are really able to do is identify hard hits.
Sensor caps and helmets both have jobs to do, and they do them well. But, we don’t know enough objective information about brain injury to actively prevent them at this time. The best steps you can take to reduce the risk of brain injury is closely following all safety and equipment regulations, and following safe tackling protocol. However, so long as children are playing football concussions are going to occur.