April 1, 2012

Oregon knows the shock and anguish that comes with a teen athlete’s life-changing injury or death. The case of the high school football player that we discussed in our last post is just one example of the devastating consequences of a closed head injury. According to his mother, his coaches didn’t recognize the symptoms of his concussion. The truth is, brain injuries are often misdiagnosed or neglected in high school, college and professional sports leagues.

The efforts of parents and safety advocates to mandate training and safety rules in their school districts have gained momentum over the past couple of years. The NFL, too, has started to rethink its safety rules — and enforcement of existing rules — in response to a number of lawsuits brought by brain-injured players. Now, helmet manufacturers are entering the safety fray.

We’ve discussed a couple of experimental designs already. A helmet cover made of gel-filled pouches has reduced head injuries significantly for the high school team trying it out. Another designer has come up with a way to use the helmet to help after an injury.

Yet another company has replaced the single-piece hard shell of the helmet with multiple plates. The plates would reduce the force of any impact, large or small.

While manufacturers work to improve the gear, the league is feeling considerable pressure to make the game itself safer. Recent news of targeting certain players and paying a “bounty” for injuring opposing players enough that they have to leave the game has not helped the league’s image. It may, however, be exactly the kind of motivation the NFL needed to pay more attention to TBI and the safety of their players.

Source: Reuters.com, “Football turns to helmet technology to tackle head injuries,” Scott Malone, April 2, 2012


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