I meant to post something on this earlier today, but got caught up with a few things. In any event, there was a great piece in the New York Times today about the rather lax safety standards used for football helmets. Turns out football helmets, contrary to popular belief, are not tested in any way for their ability to prevent concussions. The only requirement for helmet safety appears to be a standard -- set in 1973 -- that helmets be able to withstand high-level trauma that could otherwise cause skull fractures. From The Times article:
Moreover, used helmets worn by the vast majority of young players encountered stark lapses in the industry's few safety procedures. Some of the businesses that recondition helmets ignored testing rules, performed the tests incorrectly or returned helmets that were still in poor condition. More than 100,000 children are wearing helmets too old to provide adequate protection -- and perhaps half a million more are wearing potentially unsafe helmets that require critical examination, according to interviews with experts and industry data.Although some injuries are unavoidable results of football physics, helmet standards have not kept up with modern football, industry insiders said. The one helmet standard was written by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or Nocsae, a volunteer consortium that includes, and is largely financed by, the helmet makers themselves. Nocsae accepts no role in ensuring that helmets, either new or old, meet even its limited requirement.The entire article is extensively researched and well worth a read, especially if you have a child who plays youth football. Reading this reminded me of a concussion form I went to about a month ago hosted by two local physicians. One of the statements that struck me that night was made by Dr. John Deitch, who said there is no scientific proof that new helmet models are in any way more effective at preventing concussions. Certainly, helmets are useful for other reasons -- preventing skull fractures chief among them. But stopping concussions? That hasn't been proven. Thoughts?