Thursday, July 16, 2009

Concussion Research Leads to New Helmet Technology



The CFL season has kicked off and NFL training camps will open at the beginning of August. Many players in both leagues will now have the choice of several new helmets designed to prevent concussions. Players will now have a serious decision to make; continue using their existing helmets or make the switch to the new designs, which may prevent brain injuries.


Research conducted by the Sports Legacy Institute and other organizations has led to more awareness of the serious long-term health issues related to concussions and a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy; the result of multiple head traumas. Equipment manufacturers are now working towards new styles of helmets that protect amateur and professional athletes in a more effective manner.


One of the companies involved in creating new football helmet technology is Xenith. A partner of the Sports Legacy Institute, Xenith was founded by former Harvard University Quarterback Vin Ferrara MD, MBA in an effort to prevent injury and increase awareness of the risks involved in the high impact game of football. Their newest design, the X1 helmet, is now available to players at all levels.


Working with independent medical advisors, Xenith’s new X1 helmet design consists of a series of eighteen thermoplastic pucks under the outer shell, which act as shock absorbers when impacted. These absorbers help to dissipate more energy then the standard foam padding in older helmets. The chin piece and straps allow for a tighter, more comfortable fit on the player and helps to reduce the sudden movement of the head during impact.


Manufactured with a serial number and date stamp, Xenith offers a program that allows coaches and trainers to track the wear and tear on the helmets from year to year; components that are no longer safe are replaceable. All of the technical aspects of the new X1 helmets, ordering information and the programs offered are available at the company’s website, www.xenith.com.


One of the most recognizable names in football equipment for the past 75 years is Riddell. With new technology that works to prevent concussions and information obtained from a three-year study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the company’s website states that players using the Riddell Revolution helmets are 31% less likely to suffer a concussion.


Available since 2002, the Revolution consists of a polycarbonate outer shell that dissipates the energy produced upon impact. The source of many concussions are hits in the area of the neck, jaw and side of the head, the Revolution helmets are equipped with more padding in these areas. The helmet also includes six sensors that record the severity of each hit, which will allow for further improvements and gain valuable information for future research. A quick release facemask allows for easier access to players in the event an injury does occur. Further information on the various designs of the Revolution helmet is available at www.riddell.com.


While helmet manufacturers cannot guarantee that their products will eliminate the possibility of concussions, they are working towards reducing the risk of injury. The rules of the game are an important factor in preventing injury. Players must respect one another and attempt to avoid direct headshots and leading with their head, creating helmet to helmet impact.


Football is an exciting game to play and watch, devastating hits and contact are part of the game. Whether playing as an amateur or professional, it is important to remember that while we may live to play football, there is also life after football and with proper respect and innovations in equipment, a safer and healthier future will be the result. Have a great sports day everyone.

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