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Guarding Against Gridiron Concussion

10 Steps Can Check Football Helmets Fit Correctly, Expert Says
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 25, 2006 -- As football season kicks off, experts stress the need for players' helmets to fit properly to help prevent concussions.

Concussions are brain injuries due to a blow to the head or body.

Concussions are usually mild. But they can be severe, requiring surgery or resulting in lasting brain problems.

High school players may be more likely than professional or college players to have a helmet that doesn't fit, notes Drexel University's Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM.

"While professional and college teams have people trained in how to properly fit an athlete with a helmet, most high school and youth programs do not," Hong says, in a Drexel news release.

"Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of young athletes without proper head protection to avoid a potentially serious injury," Hong notes.

Helmet Doesn't Fit?

Hong teamed up with Tracey Covassin, PhD, ATC, to study football-helmet fit in high school players.

Hong and Covassin sent surveys about football helmets to 1,200 high school athletic directors in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during the 2001-2002 school year.

In the surveys, the researchers asked who checked the fit of players' football helmets. The surveys also covered 10 key points for a proper helmet fit.

The researchers received 289 completed surveys, about a quarter of surveys they had sent out.

In the surveys, the athletic directors reported 286 concussions among their more than 22,800 varsity, junior, and freshman players during the 2001 football season.

The survey results also show that certified athletic trainers may be better than coaches in checking helmet fit. But both groups missed at least some of these 10 key points on helmet fit:

  • Pull down on face mask.
  • Turn helmet to move head.
  • Rock helmet back and forth.
  • Check that the jaw and pads are snug.
  • Check that pads cover base of skull.
  • Check that helmet is 1 inch above player's eyebrow.
  • Check that the helmet's ear holes match.
  • Check that the helmet's chin straps are an equal distance apart.
  • Check that the face mask is 2 inches from the player's nose.

"The most commonly missed helmet-fitting techniques by coaches were facemask 2 inches from nose (25.5%), helmet 1 inch above eyebrows (17.5%), and chin straps equal distance apart (17.5%)," the researchers write.

The survey results are due to be published later this year in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The findings were also presented in Denver at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in June.

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