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Head injuries and concussions are the hot topic right now in the NFL and around the sporting world. Rightfully so as well. The incidences and the injuries are significantly increasing. There is no one best solution to this real problem, but limiting the hitting and tackling to a specific ‘zone’ within the body are NOT an answer in our opinion.

The game of football is violent by its very nature, it is part of the sport. It is what separates these incredible athletes from the weekend warriors and armchair qb’s. Permanant head injuries and paralysis are some of the most very unfortunate parts of the game.

Redefining the game is truly not the best solution to curbing head injuries, but rather redefining the protective gear is. With mounting pressure from the media, some fans, sponsors, some players and health care professionals, Commissioner Roger Goodell is bound to make changes. Let’s hope they are not in haste.

Head trauma and head injuries are some of the most under diagnosed and mis-understood afflictions in sports. As more and more data and information comes to light regarding athletes and concussions, the closer sports and medical professionals come to finding a workable solution and possibly better prevention methods.

Last month, former football player Chris Nowinski testified before the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), called for a hearing aimed at placing focus on the issue. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in his testimony, “We know that concussions are a serious matter and that they require special attention and treatment.” According to the NFL, about 175 concussions occur league wide each season.

More recently the NFL has suspended its in-house study of the long-term effects of concussions in retired players. In the face of heated criticism from outside medical experts, the players union and members of Congress (although Congress involvement is the last thing any sporting entity needs) because of suspect data and conflict of interest.

Gee, you think? The fact is, that the NFL has known for quite some time that concussive injuries are more dangerous with severe long-term aftereffects. So why is it only now, after numerous high-profile concussion injuries in 2009, to both NFL and NCAA stars has the NFL truly addressed this very serious issue. Like almost anything in life…it comes down to dollars.

“Protect the shield” as infamously echoed by the commissioner. Protect it indeed, at almost any cost, until it becomes so glaring and such a problem that action is needed to address the problem. The days of sweeping serious issues under the carpet are gone. In this world of media now, virtually no one or nothing can hide from the stream of real-time information.

Players are now supposedly encouraged to come forth and report and/or disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion. That may be true, but actually getting some of the tougher, hard-nosed players to admit a weakness may prove to be a stumbling block in itself.

Medically, the treatment of concussions are passive and depend mainly on allowing the brain to heal itself utilizing rest and a strict avoidance of activities that may induce a re-injury. It is completely unsafe and irresponsible to return to play while symptomatic in any way following a concussion. Return to play should follow a stringent medically advised step by step process. The prescribed progression will typically vary depending on the duration of post-concussion symptoms.

The Data

National Football League player concussions occur at an impact velocity of 9.3 +/- 1.9 m/s (20.8 +/- 4.2 mph) oblique on the facemask, side, and back of the helmet. There is a dire need for new testing procedures to evaluate helmet performance for violent impacts causing concussion.

Pendulum impacts were used to simulate 7.4 and 9.3 m/s impacts causing concussion in NFL players. An instrumented Hybrid III head was helmeted and supported on the neck, which was fixed to a sliding table for frontal and lateral impacts. Second, a linear pneumatic impactor was used to evaluate helmets at 9.3 m/s and an elite impact condition at 11.2 m/s.

The severity of the head responses was measured by a severity index, translational and rotational acceleration, and other biomechanical responses. High-speed videos of the helmet kinematics were also recorded. The tests were evaluated for their similarity to conditions causing NFL concussions.

It has been noted that football players from age 30 and up to 50 were 19 times more likely to be diagnosed with a memory disorder or dementia than the national average. Players over 50 were diagnosed with dementia-related illness at a rate of 5 times the national average.

A new linear impactor was developed for use by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). The concluding results from the pendulum test closely simulated the conditions causing concussion in NFL players. Newer helmet designs and padding reduced the risk of concussion in 7.4 and 9.3 m/s impacts oblique on the facemask and lateral on the helmet shell.

The linear impactor provided a broader speed range for helmet testing and more interactions with safety equipment. NOCSAE has prepared a draft supplemental standard for the 7.4 and 9.3 m/s impacts using a newly designed pneumatic impactor. No helmet designs currently address the elite impact condition at 11.2 m/s, as padding bottoms out and head responses dramatically increase. The new proposed NOCSAE standard to improve football helmet shell and padding design is the first to address helmet performance in reducing concussion risks in football.

The fact is, that football has to invest in better designed and more protective helmets. Cost should NOT be an issue. With teams and the league itself worth billions of dollars, the cost of protective equipment should NEVER be a question or consideration.

Similar carbon fiber/kevlar and energy apsorbing technology and knowledge that is utilized for F1, MotoGP and other motorsport helmets with some version of a Hans type device needs to be incorporated into football helmet design and manufacturing in order to minimize the high rate of brain injuries suffered by football players worldwide.

data sourced from the NFL, Ovid, PubMed and NCAA.

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11 Comments

  1. The latest military data shows a need for stabilizing the JAW due to forces transmitted through the chin strap. One of the key developers of the first generation of air helmet, Dave Halstead is now testing helmets for the NFL. Directional forces need to be identified and dealt with accordingly. A blow to the back of the head, he say’s you need the best rated helmet for those types of blows. A blow to the chin, his new research confirms, a corrective medically fit mouth guard, may be the best approach. Helmets are only part of the solution, oral appliances should be held at the same standard of testing as helmets. Specifically educated reseachers need to be involved. Temporal mandibular joint experts specialize in a little know, very misunderstood science. A long line common mouth guard research has created a lot of confusion with false claims and unreliable study methods. A corrective device used by the N.E. Patriots and now being fitted in NHL players by an NHL workers compensation provider, has shown great promise in a new study

    publication.http://www.compendiumlive.com/article.php?id=2907

    http://www.mahercorlabs.com/pdf/Dental_Traumatology%20Publication.pdf

    • Great additional information Steve. Thank you very much.

  2. My son has suffered numerous concussions playing hockey; he is only 21 years old. We have been to numerous doctors for the past three years being misdiagnosed; end result: Post-Concussion Syndrome with no conclusion for help on what to do next. Each day we live in fear – in fear of losing our son. Please help. Is there a wellness program somewhere that focuses on healing the brain, depression, sleep, etc. to help him?

    • I’m very sorry to hear about your son and as a parent, I share your fear and concerns.
      I don’t have much info except what I have found from certain Universities. you may want to try to contact them directly.
      The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has done studies on Neurocognitive and symptom predictors of recovery in high school athletes.
      Also, Michigan State University- Immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing (ImPACT) practices of sports medicine professionals (covassin@msu.edu)
      And the Children’s National Medical Center
      http://www.childrensnational.org/pressroom/NewsReleases/ConcussionGuidelinesJune09.aspx

      I hope you are able to find the answers you and your family need. We send our blessings to you and your family.

    • We have had great success with HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) on TBI (traumatic brain injury) and MTBI (concussions). We are starting a national study on the above plus PTSD for the military and Vets. I urge you to Google “HBOT and Concussion”, and then get your son into a hyperbaric chamber ASAP. Feel free to call me 843-298-3980

    • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Read up on it. I know you don’t know me from Adam, but I did a round of treatments with my son who had a slight brain injury at birth which resulted in Learning disabilities, speech problems, headaches, problems with interrupted sleep, angry outbursts and terrible short term memory. It took us 10 years to get him properly diagnosed with a brain injury. He’s 11 now and he still benefitted greatly from it. Funny thing is, when I took him this summer, I talked with the other relatives in the waiting room regularly. A third of the patients in the clinic in NO went there for diabetic wound care, a third were children who had developmental delays or disabilites, and the other third were Ex football players in their 50 and 60′s!!! After talking to the spouses of these football players (who are participating in a study with Dr. Paul Harsch, a leader in hyperbaric oxygen therapy), they told me of repeated concussions and head injuries that led to their participating in the study. I would talk to these guys after a few months of treatment and they all said their symptoms improved significantly. Read “The Oxygen Revolution” by Dr. Paul Harsch. God bless you and your son. I hope you find an answer to your stuggles!!!

  3. We have treated many concussions, post concussion syndromes and TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries) with HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) with remarkable success. We are preparing to do a national study sanctioned by the military on our Vets and active military, across the country, on TBI and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
    I urge you to Google “Hyperbarics and Concussion” and then get your injured son into a hyperbaric chamber ASAP.
    I am happy to talk with anyone on the subject. 843-298-3980

  4. Many NFL and NHL players have found relief with a corrective mouth guard, now being paid for by the NHL workers compensation provider CHUBB’s. http://www.mahercor.com

  5. However, the league last week announced new guidelines regarding concussions, The Times reported. Cycling Protective Gear Wear

  6. these new mouthguards should help decrese the amount of concussions but if it doesnt work,either way more needs to be done

    • I absolutely agree. Let’s hope the NFL invests more in the safety of it’s franchise players
      than it does in the “shield”- because without the players….there is no shield.
      It’s Big Business mentality, feed the greed machine, neglect the parts that make it run.


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