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Heads Up: The Skinny on the New Football Helmets

Newer, more high-tech football helmets might not help prevent concussions

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Concussions have become the latest hot button topic in sports. The focus on head injuries, not to mention a recent lawsuit filed against the NFL by thousands of former players, stems from claims that they have insufficient protection and cause a host of problems for athletes, including brain damage and depression. You might think using newer, higher-tech helmet models could prevent this problem, but new research found just the opposite.

A recent study from the University of Wisconsin Health Sports Medicine Center in Madison surveyed more than 1,300 high school football players to find out whether newer helmet models, such as Schutt’s Vengeance DCT, which promises “durometers that are specifically designed to absorb both high-velocity and low-velocity impacts,” were more effective in preventing concussions than older models. Their trainers kept track of which helmets players used and the occurrence and severity of their injuries. Researchers found no difference for the rate of concussions sustained between players who were wearing new helmets versus those whose helmets were a few years older.

Even more surprising? They also noted players who wore a custom-fitted mouth guard were more likely to get a concussion.

“[People] shouldn’t be really concerned with one football helmet being better than another,” says study author Timothy McGuine. With little science to prove the newer helmets are better, wearing an older helmet might be just as effective as wearing an newer one.

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However, McGuine suggests that regular guys playing with their friends need to be vigilant. If you’re playing tackle football with a helmet and you think you might have a concussion, getting back on the field is a mistake. “What we’re finding is having one concussion makes it more likely to have a second or a third concussion,” he says. “If you’re back in the game too soon, you’re risk of concussion dramatically increases.

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If you’re out on the field and take a big hit, assess yourself. If you’re overly dizzy, you might have a concussion. Stop what you’re doing and seek medical attention.

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