Football Helmets and Concussions

football-helmetFootball is a popular pastime for people of all ages and particularly children. While it is an enjoyable sport and a way to get more exercise in your life or your child’s life, it can also be dangerous. Every year, nearly 40,000 high school students suffer football-related head injuries.

Unfortunately, even minor head injuries can be linked with alzheimer’s disease and other future cognitive problems, and a traumatic brain injury can have an immediate and significant effect on a person’s quality of life. Padding, helmets, mouth guards and other protection equipment is often marketed to keep kids safer, but new research reveals that some equipment may not be as effective as previously believed.

The study, which was performed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin, evaluated more than 1,300 high school football players who played during the 2012 season. At the beginning of the study, more than 10 percent of students had already experienced a concussion. During the 2012 season, another 8 percent experienced a concussion. The rates of injury varied little between types and brands of helmets as well as between older and newer helmets. Researchers also noted no significant incidence in the severity of concussions received. Custom-fit mouth guards are not only unlikely to protect against concussion but may even increase the risk by nearly 90 percent, according to researchers.

Many sports equipment companies promote their products as safer than the competitions’. As this study reveals, this might have to stop. There is a risk involved in virtually all kids’ sporting events, and while proper equipment can reduce the risk, it cannot eliminate it. Because parents must make a decision about how best to protect their kids, they are often willing to spend more on equipment that is advertised as stronger or durable. While newer, pricier equipment may look nice, as this study reveals, it generally offers the same protection as older models.