There Is No Safer Football Helmet for Kids: Study
Researchers compared high-tech helmets to standard gear for concussion protection
The concussion rate did not vary among players based on the type of helmet worn or the age of the helmet. The helmet brand also made no difference in the severity of concussions, which was measured by the number of days lost from play due to concussion.
"As long as the helmet their child is wearing is in good condition, is properly fit and is worn correctly, then the parent shouldn't feel bad if their child is not in a $400 or $500 helmet," Brooks said.
Players with custom-fitted mouth guards actually suffered a higher concussion rate than those who used generic models.
The realities of both physics and human anatomy make it unlikely that any helmet could better reduce the chances of concussion, Brooks said.
"There's a lot of debate regarding whether you can create a helmet that could reduce concussion risk, given the structure of the skull," she said. "The brain isn't attached to the skull. It's floating freely in spinal fluid. You can dissipate the force of something striking the skull, but you can't reduce the forces that make the brain bounce back and forth inside the skull following impact."
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr. Margot Putukian, director of athletic medicine at Princeton University, said the new study adds further evidence to the questionable ability of helmets to prevent concussions.
"I think the companies are well-meaning and they are trying to develop technology that might reduce impact, but we're not seeing their efforts translate into a reduction in concussion," said Putukian, who was not involved with the study. "There is risk in sports that can't be completely negated by equipment."
Coaches and officials would have a better chance of reducing concussions if they limited contact during practice and taught athletes the proper technique for tackling, study author Brooks said.
"I personally don't have a problem with more emphasis on enforcing rules that limit contact with the head," she said. "You shouldn't be leading with your head. You shouldn't be tackling with your head. We should be teaching kids that the head should not be the leading point of contact."