Custom fit helmets – can they help protect against concussions?
It appears that high-contact sports such as hockey and football are becoming much more violent. Although both sports have made efforts to remove unnecessary hits from the game, concussions are inevitable when athletes are as strong and fast as they are today. The only reasonable solution is to improve the safety equipment the players use in hopes of protecting them from a traumatic brain injury while on the field.
Riddell first introduced custom-fit football helmets at the collegiate level. Riddell came up with a helmet design to keep players safe. The helmets featured eight pieces of customizable padding to reduce the impact of head trauma.
A small group of 15 players wore the prototypes in game, and the results were overwhelming. The players did not suffer any concussions while wearing the helmets. Those that wore the helmet said that they would never want to go back on the field in another helmet not only because of how comfortable it was but because of how safe they felt.
As a result of the 15 players who wore the custom-fit prototype, Riddell has expanded who can receive a custom-fit helmet. During the past Super Bowl, 20 NFL players wore custom-fit helmets. This is in addition to the 150 NFL players who wore the Precision Fit helmets during the NFL season.
Riddell has long been the leader in innovative helmet technology, and it appears that these helmets are no different. It’s hard to imagine that when Riddell created their first football helmet in 1929, they would one day be using 3-D scans to protect the brains of elite football players. Riddell has said that their scans are incredibly accurate, to the half-millimeter.
It’s reasonable to believe that the company will continue to develop this technology to maximize the safety features found in a helmet. Hopefully, technologies like the Precision Fit helmet will also be produced more broadly so that amateur athletes could use them as well.
Dr. Gunnar Brolinson, the football team physician at a big-time Division 1 football program, recently announced exciting new advancements in concussion science thanks to a helmet study he conducted. Thanks to Brolinson’s work, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever blood test for detecting concussions.
Brolinson had wanted to see how effective helmets were in protecting players from concussions and began doing so in 2003. At that time, helmets were explicitly designed to prevent skull fractures. While they may have been useful in doing that, they were proving ineffective at protecting the contents of the skull. Brolinson sought to determine the amount of force the brain suffered from during various types of collisions.
His research helped develop a standard for helmets that was implemented at all levels of the game, including
- The National Football League
- NCAA Football
- Youth Football Leagues
The study helped reduce the number of concussions suffered by Brolinson’s football players by half. This goes to show how outdated helmet technology was and how helmets better-designed to protect against concussions prove to be effective in doing so.
Of course, the big success of Brolinson’s study was the blood test. Had Brolinson’s team never decided to study helmets, they may have never come across this new testing method. The blood tests are significantly more effective than CT scans, which are not the most reliable method of finding brain tissue damage or lesions. So, the benefits of improved helmet protection are two-fold. Not only do they protect the brain, but they help scientists learn more in the process.
With the new blood test, doctors can test blood for two proteins that appear immediately after a patient suffers a head injury. Bronlinson hopes that one day, a player suspected of suffering a traumatic brain injury can provide a drop of blood and let doctors know whether they have indeed suffered a severe head blow. This technology will likely revolutionize the sports world and the way in which doctors treat concussions.
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