Helmet safety and concussions
Injuries to NFL football players have kept the issue of concussion and closed head injury in the public eye. Because of the recent retirement of the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback (and past retirements of well-known players such as Steve Young), the public has become better educated about the potential long-term effect of multiple concussions. It is estimated that more than ten percent of all high school football players suffer a concussion each season. As the size and speed of the game increase, the rate of head injury also increases.
Studies have shown that while many high schools attempt to refurbish helmets regularly, this process is haphazard and often does not include the padding in helmets. In a recently documented case, a high school athlete suffered permanent deficits after sustaining a hard blow in a helmet that turned out to be more than twenty years old with the original padding. Surveys have shown that this is not uncommon, and while football helmets are designed for multiple impacts (unlike bike helmets, for example) they do not have an unlimited life.
A former Harvard quarterback has developed a new helmet that may revolutionize football helmet safety. The so-called Xenith helmet has passed several testing requirements alrady and may be marketable at a reasonable price (initially $350.00). One safety expert, Dr. Robert Cantu calls the helmet "the greatest advance in helmet design in at least 30 years." Probably not all players would be assigned this helmet initially, however, it would be available for young men who have already suffered one concussion. A company called SportSoft now maerkets tracking stickers to help equipment managers to better monitor each helmet's age and history. Other companies (Simbex and Schutt) are also marketing specialized helmets that may improve safety, and for $1,000.00 Riddel sells a helmet that would help safety personnel to identify players who should not return to a game after a severe impact.