Despite a season ending head injury in the seventh grade, Vin Ferrara didn’t understand just how problematic traumatic brain injury is for professional sports until years after his football career’s peak as a quarterback for Harvard University in the 1990’s.
While finishing medical school Ferrara was watching sports clips and came across another, more high profile career ending injury; he saw the infamous clips of Eric Lindros’ hit that destroyed his career with a concussion. While watching the clip, Ferrara decided that someone had to do something, and that someone might as well be him.
“I literally stood up and said, ‘This is ridiculous! They need to do something about this,’ ” Ferrara told the Boston Globe. “Then I started to think that maybe I should do something about it.”
The fruit of Ferrara’s efforts to help solve the concussion epidemic in pro sports goes by the name of Xenith LLC, a company which makes high-tech helmets which Ferrara believes reduces cases of TBI. Regular helmets use traditional foam padding, but Xenith’s helmets use disc-shaped pads that act as shock absorbers. The pads are designed to compress and release air, then quickly re-inflate afterwords, acting to deflect energy away from the player’s skull.
Despite the newer technology in the helmets as well as glowing statements from players who use the helmet, there are still critics of the helmets. Every year, Virginia Tech performs the most trusted test for assessing football helmet abilities to reduce concussions, and the two helmets Xenith have released have yet to receive the highest ranking, which other foam-padded helmets have received.
Beyond that, a Boston University neurologist, Dr. Robert Cantu, says there is no evidence to support any notion that a specific helmet is better at preventing concussions. “I think that Xenith’s technology of energy attenuation using air shock absorbers is innovative, but there are no on-the-field trials of football helmets that have substantiated that one system is better,” said Cantu.
There will have to be objective testing before any helmet can be thought to be “better” at preventing TBI, but the number of caring, emotionally invested minds working to combat traumatic brain injury will only help the fight to keep athletes’ brains safe.