In the conversation surrounding the NFL and Riddell’s brain injury litigation, there seem to be two camps of extremists. There are those that stand behind the mantra “they knew what they were signing up for” and ignore the possibility that the league and game are putting players in unnecessary danger, and then there are those who speak as if there is a massive conspiracy by the National Football League and Riddell to suppress information detailing the real dangers of brain injury. It should be noted, that is basically what the players suing claim has been occurring.
While this theory sounds on the surface like a complete conspiracy theory against a former employee, it seems there may be some truth that the huge companies have been willfully misrepresenting the brain health information they have received as well as their capabilities to keep players safe.
According to Frontline, Riddell was told long ago that their helmets would not be able to prevent concussions, nor would any football helmet be able to do so.
At the time, Riddell was developing a highly anticipated new helmet specifically aimed at reducing risk of concussion, which they dubbed the Revolution. This helmet is the one you still see on almost every NFL, college, high school, and youth league football player out there.
In 2000, two years before the helmet would be available for purchase, a biomechanics firms hired by both the NFL and Riddell to test the helmets gave the company a warning. Their report told Riddell even a helmet capable of passing the industry safety standard for protection against skull fractures would still put players at a 95 percent risk of receiving a concussion from a heavy enough blow. Still, in 2002, the Revolution hit shelves with a label declaring the helmet could prevent concussions.
Riddell itself promoted the helmet with a claim saying players would be 31 percent less likely to suffer a concussion while wearing the Revolution, a number which has even been called into question by Congress.
The first sign this litigation will not go well for Riddell came last month when a Colorado court found Riddell liable for $3.1 million after a young athlete suffered a serious traumatic brain injury while wearing the helmet in practice.
Much more is bound to come out in the next years as the NFL and Riddell’s lawsuits slowly play out in court, and what this means for Riddell is unclear, but one thing is certain. The company plainly ignored a report they paid for, and have been hiding the truth about TBI risks and helmets for over a decade.