CoverHawkSports

Beyond The Helmet: A Cure for the Concussion Issue

By: Nate Dreyer

There are many issues that are pressing across all sports, at all levels. And, while many of these issues do require constant attention, none seem to acquire as much coverage and worry as the issue of concussions. This is an issue that not only touches all sports, but it also touches all levels. Recently, new research has showed more and more that concussions can have long-term side effects that can ravage an athlete for the rest of his or her life. And, while concussions are seen in all sports, no sport gains more attention and concern than football. This concern can be justified easily by simply looking at the rate of concussions in football versus the rate of concussions elsewhere, as the Head Case company reports that per 100,000 events Football has approximately 64-76.8 concussions, which is about 15 more occurrences than any other sport. And, the frequency of these concussions is magnified when they are coupled with the major storylines revolving famous players suffering from their concussions, such as the suicide of former NFL linebacker, Junior Seau, which was caused by CTE suffered from years of blows to the head.

Rate of ConcussionsWhile this issue is being met with swift action at higher levels of football, high schools have, obviously, miniscule funds and resources when compared to the NCAA and the NFL. But, at the same time, young adults and students are the ones that need to be protected the most from the issues that are associated with head injuries and concussions. Therefore, finding a solution that is both cost-effective for schools, as well as the most effective for cutting down on the amount of serious head injuries that are suffered by students, is a very crucial action that needs to be taken.

There are several different ways that can be taken en route to finding the correct solution when combining the cost and the effectiveness of the product. For example,  it is very expensive to purchase new helmets with top of the line technology. But, there are also products with a smaller price tag that may not prevent the head injury, but can alert of one occurring, so the player will be taken off of the field and will not worsen the injury that he had acquired. So, it is a combination of these two solutions that is needed to help players the most at a high school level of competition. The easiest way to help change the trend in concussions is by implementing new helmets that help lessen the blow on the head of the athlete. But, these are usually going to be above the budget of an average high school football program. However, there are several new options that companies have brought out that help lessen the blow.

 One of the largest companies in the business of football safety equipment is Riddell. They have brought out the new Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet, of the 23 available helmet models, it got the highest rating, and a 5-star rating from Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings. However, this is a very expensive helmet ($400 without facemask, or school customization), and also, like any helmet, it comes with a warning and cannot protect against all head injuries. And that is the issue with buying new helmets to protect the players.

The same situation is seen with all other specialized helmets that have been released by other companies in the past few years, as they all cost more than traditional helmets, and they don’t necessarily protect against concussions. This can be seen, for example, in an experience of Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay packers in a game early this past NFL season. As, in Sports Grid story by Jake O’Donnel, it is reported that despite Lacy wearing a specialized concussion helmet Lacy’s concussion monitor reported that he suffered a concussion, rendering the extra cost of the helmet useless.

So, therefore there are several other, smaller, steps that need to be taken in order to help change the trend in head injuries and concussions.

First, in order to help with head injuries, training with players must start at a young age to ensure that players are taught to not use their heads as a battering ram. Therefore, programs such as USA Football’s “Heads Up” program is a very important part to help cut down on the amount of concussions, because players are trained to play the correct way, have correct equipment fit, etc. from a young age.

Also, there are many products that can help detect concussions that can help the issue because they will get players off of the field before the injury can worsen with more blows that they take to the head.

Of these products, Impakt Protective produced the Shockbox helmet sensor. This sensor costs under $200, making it less than half of the price of a new helmet. Also, it gives the ability to monitor hits throughout a game that a helmet does not give. The Shockbox mounts discreetly to the interior of a football helmet, and can give readings to the smartphone of a coach, trainer, etc.

So, with the cost of the products taken into account, the idea of buying all new helmets, facemasks, etc. is not an idea that is sensible for most high school teams. Therefore, adding a device such as a Shockbox is the most sensible idea, because the cost if far more attainable for a high school, and it also will still limit the amount of serious head-injuries. However, this needs to be used along with better training of tackling techniques used by young players. So, in conclusion, if players are trained to not make head to head contact, and they wear a sensor to monitor incidental contact, the amount of serious head injuries among young athletes can be severely diminished.

 

Works Cited / Consulted

  1. “Eddie Lacy Concussion Helmet Doesn’t Work Against Seahawks | SportsGrid.” SportsGrid. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. <http://www.sportsgrid.com/nfl/eddie-lacy-wore-an-in-game-concussion-monitor-and-special-concussion-proof-helmet-and-he-got-a-concussion/>.
  2. “Head Case – Complete Concussion Managements.” Stats on Concussions & Sports –. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. <http://www.headcasecompany.com/concussion_info/stats_on_concussions_sports>.
  3. “Heads Up Football | Youth Football | USA Football | Football’s National Governing Body.” Heads Up Football | Youth Football | USA Football | Football’s National Governing Body. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. <http://usafootball.com/headsup>.
  4. Mark Fainaru-Wada, Jim Avila and Steve Fainaru |. “Doctors: Junior Seau’s Brain Had CTE.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. <http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/8830344/study-junior-seau-brain-shows-chronic-brain-damage-found-other-nfl-football-players>.
  5. “Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet.” Shop Riddell. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. <http://www.riddell.com/riddell-speedflex-helmet.html>.

6.”Shockbox Impact Alert Sensors.” Football Helmet Sensors. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.        <http://www.theshockbox.com/football-sensors>.

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