No Helmet Brand Beats the Competition

Concussion rates similar from one football helmet brand to another

(RxWiki News) Head injuries and concussions are almost a given in American football. Is there some brand of equipment that can protect the heads of young athletes better than others?

No football helmet brand was superior in protecting high school football players from concussions, according to new research presented at a conference.

This study also found that mouth guards specially designed to prevent concussions didn't work as well as generic ones in protecting teens' heads.

The researchers of this study said the findings suggest that claims by manufacturers about how well their equipment works should be carefully assessed.

"Wear a helmet and mouth guard during practice and play."

Timothy McGuine, PhD, from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, led a team of researchers in investigating which types of football helmets and mouth guards are linked with concussions, including the severity of each concussion and how often they occur.

This study looked at data on 1,332 football players from 36 public and private high schools in Wisconsin.

Athletic trainers at each high school tracked the number of concussions that occurred among the athletes, who were about 16 years of age on average, throughout the 2012 football season.

The trainers also recorded the severity of each concussion as defined by the number of days lost because of the injury.

In total, 19 percent of the athletes had had at least one concussion within the last six years. Thirteen percent of the participants reported having a concussion within the last year.

During the 2012 season, 115 or 8.6 percent of the players sustained 116 concussions.

More than half the athletes in the study wore helmets manufactured by Riddell. Helmets made by Schutt and Xenith followed behind at 35 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Almost two-thirds of the mouth guards worn by players were generic models provided by the school. The rest were custom fitted by a dental professional or were specifically marketed to reduce the chances of getting a concussion.

The researchers found no difference in the number of concussions based on the type of helmet worn or the year that the helmets were purchased.

The severity of the concussions for players wearing any particular helmet brand was not different compared to the other brands.

As for mouth guards, the number of concussions sustained by players who wore a specialized or custom-fitted mouth guard was greater than that of players who wore a generic mouth guard.

"Sports medicine providers need to carefully assess equipment manufacturer’s claims that their products will reduce the likelihood of high school football players sustaining a sports-related concussion," the researchers wrote in their report.

This study was presented July 13 at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in Chicago. All findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
July 13, 2013