How well do football helmets protect the head? - KMSP-TV

How well do football helmets protect the head?

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(WJBK) -

How well do football helmets protect the head and the young, developing brains?

A Virginia Tech study recently found that a bigger, more-padded helmet can lower the risk of concussion in football. Now, a new study looked at how much protection a helmet actually provides.

Researchers at Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology tested helmets using a crash test dummy. They wanted to see how protective 10 popular football helmets are when sustaining repeated impacts at 12-miles per hour.

"We think the best helmets are probably ones that dissipate the energy the most across the helmet and not directly towards the brain," says Dr. Rick Figler of the Cleveland Clinic.

The researchers found the helmets, on average, reduced the risk of traumatic brain injury by only 20 percent. Dr. Figler, who treats concussions at the Cleveland Clinic, says the information is useful but it's tough to tell how the results would translate to the football field.

"I applaud their efforts because we need this type of research, to look at helmets in a lab to see which ones may dissipate those energy forces better, but it really has to be extrapolated to the field of play to see overall, does it decrease the incidents of concussions?" he says.

Results show helmets are most effective at protecting against brain tissue bruising and skull fracture.

Researchers say protecting against concussion is especially important for young players because their still-developing brains are more susceptible to the effects, and parents need to make sure their players are protected.

"Every helmet fits every kid a little bit differently. So, they need to make sure it fits good, that it is in good repair, that they wear it and that they use it properly, as well," Dr. Figler says.

The University of Michigan's Biomechanics Research Lab is also testing helmets on crash dummies.

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