With the increased concerns of the long-term health issues related to concussions, more care is being placed in testing football helmets.


BLACKSBURG, VA (WZZM) -- With all the attention focused on concussions in football, you may wonder if high school football helmets ever get tested for their concussion-prevention properties. They do, but not everyone is convinced the test results are conclusive.

Virginia Tech researcher Stefan Duma has devised a one through five-star rating system for helmets in his laboratory. He began testing adult football helmets a few years ago; his work has also focused on testing the strength and protectiveness of helmets used by the U.S. military.

In Duma's lab, helmets are drop-tested 120 times, at different heights and directions, to check "basically how much is that helmet gonna cushion the impact."

Duma says the problem helmets are those rated with one or two stars. He concedes that no football helmet is guaranteed to prevent a player from suffering a concussion.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, WZZM 13 obtained information on the helmets used in a cross-section of West Michigan high schools. None were using the lowest-rated helmets, and most used mainly helmets with the highest, four and five-star ratings.

Here is a link to VA Tech's helmet testing results: STAR ratings

However, the national group that sets performance standards for athletic equipment says focusing solely on the star system can create a false sense of security. Dave Halstead of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment contends "there is no science to support there is a difference among them."

Experts point out there are many other factors that impact the chances of a football player receiving a concussion. Key among them - making sure the helmet fits correctly; one that is too loose or too tight can pose a risk. Helmets older than ten years old should not be used and helmets need to be reconditioned on a regular basis.

Coaches must also teach proper blocking and tackling technique. That technique avoids any direct-head contact. Athletes must be in top physical condition, taking special care to strengthen neck and shoulder muscles. Also, athletes should undergo baseline concussion testing before they hit the field. That will aid in their treatment if they do suffer a head injury.

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