Since the rise in concussion awareness, throughout professional and amateur sports alike, the NFL has been one of the most criticized organizations in the country. They are also an organization with immense recourses, at the heart of this issue. Change of culture at this level is crucial to change at all levels of the sport.
The reality of TBIs and long term CTE has led to a huge push for the development of safety precautions and protocols. With rule changes, along with higher medical standards for protective gear, perhaps concussions can be deterred, but even with the most modern helmets, aimed solely at preventing concussions, they simply cannot be completely prevented.
In a sport as contact heavy as football, when two heads collide, with enough force, a TBI will occur. A helmet can only really protect the skull from direct impact, which is certainly valuable, however when it comes to concussions, the injury occurs within the skull itself. The force of the hit will cause the brain to hit against the skull.
In the year 2000 the foremost name in football helmets, Riddell, was preparing to release their brand-new helmet, the Revolution, claiming to lower the chance of concussion by 31 percent. After receiving warnings from a biomechanics firm hired by the NFL and Riddell themselves, to test helmets, they went ahead with the Revolution anyways, with the same claims. Their helmet did not successfully prevent a notable number of concussions, though their claims led many players to believe they would. This has led to thousands of lawsuits from former NFL players, and youth athletes, alike, and shows that claims like this can be dangerous.
Even now, the most innovative helmet companies like, Vicis, who have, made some waves in 2017 with their Zero1, and again recently with the Zero2, worn by players like Russel Wilson, Aaron Rogers, and Patrick Mahomes are struggling to stay afloat, even with grants from the NFL. Why is that? It could be because the value just isn't there yet. With such high prices for gear, if they don't prevent injuries significantly better what is the point?
While, they may make a better helmet, it can only go so far in preventing concussions. Like airbags to a car, they cannot be expected to play an impossible role, such as preventing accidents, let alone common whiplash. That's just not how these injuries work. They result from high force and rapid motion, not contact. While Vicis has developed a material that absorbs some of the force to the skull, through bending, it would need to take a lot more to claim to prevent concussions. Again, a concussion could occur without any contact to the helmet or head. The speed at which the neck and skull are shaken is what would likely result in a injury.
Though making helmets better is a very good thing, that should continue with support from the NFL, to better protect all players, it should not be viewed as a solution to concussions, and focusing development elsewhere, such as rule changes and educational safety, could be just as, or more valuable to football as whole and other contact sports.
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