Hoosier Parents: Has Your Child's School Scored A Touchdown Or Fumbled Big With Football Helmet Safety?

Football season has (thankfully) begun for colleges and the NFL, as well as for middle schools and high schools across the country. Most people are well aware that America’s favorite sport is also one of the most dangerous ones you can play. As parents head to the bleachers or sidelines under those Friday night lights to cheer for their child, they need to be assured the equipment Johnny’s school provides him (specifically, the helmet) will adequately protect him when he blitzes the opposing quarterback or helps sweep the fullback down the field.

Are All Helmets Created Equal?

Just as a wide variety of helmet types exist, so too does their value and safety rating. Since high school football has been consistently shown in studies to be the sport with the highest concussion rate, having an effective helmet is the player’s best defense against a concussion or even worse – a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Depending on what helmet your child’s school utilizes for his football team, a reduction in concussion risk by as much as fifty (50) percent could be achieved.

Researchers at Virginia Tech have been studying helmet safety at its School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, both in the lab and on the football field, since 2003. They have compiled a five (5) star rating system of the most commonly used football helmets in high schools across the nation. Five stars is considered the best available; four stars is ranked very good; three stars is considered good; two stars is called adequate; and one star is marginal. There is also a classification called not recommended. But money doesn’t always buy quality: “You can buy a $200 bad helmet or you can buy a $200 good helmet. Why wouldn’t you buy the best one you can? Effectively, there’s no real cost difference,” Dr. Stephan Duma said, the lead helmet researcher at Virginia Tech.

Schools: Focus On Safety Now (Or Face Lawsuits In Overtime?)

Prior to the Virginia Tech study, “there was no way for consumers to get any idea which helmet was better,” Duma said. How does your child’s school stack up against the others with helmet safety? An investigation by local news station WTHR even prompted several local high schools to remove low-ranked football helmets from their equipment rooms. The peer-reviewed Virginia Tech study, published in the April 2014 Journal of Neurosurgery, raises the question of whether a school could face potential liability by utilizing low-ranking helmets if a student was injured on the field. You can view what football helmet your child’s Central Indiana school uses, along with its ranking, by clicking here.

Because of the risk of injury – and a growing body of data about concussions and how to prevent them – coaches are now focusing not just on helmets, but also on the importance of proper training to help avoid concussions. The concern on player safety and concussion injuries has also carried over into several statehouses. Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that his state’s high school teams may only have contact (full equipment) practices twice a week during the season. Texas and other states have limited contact practices. So parents, before the next kickoff, be sure your child’s protective sporting equipment makes the cut!

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