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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Football helmet design can alter concussion rate, study finds

Helmet design may affect concussion rates, a study found

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Super Bowl viewers might want to keep an eye on the helmets crashing together in Sunday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. A new study says that the lids worn by opposing quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, not to mention the dreadlock-filled helmet of Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, can reduce concussion risk by more than half, compared with an older model.

The study adds to a growing consensus that helmet design can impact impacts. This one, published Friday in the Journal of Neurosurgery, was the first to control for the number of impacts different players receive. It measured head motion changes during more than 1.2 million impacts over five years of Division I NCAA football games played by eight college teams.

Sixty-four of those hits resulted in diagnosed concussions, and the relative risk of being among those dizzy denizens of the gridiron was cut by roughly 54% if players wore a more advanced model helmet. Both helmets in the comparison were made by the same manufacturer, Riddell, which is the official helmet of the NFL (at least until Sunday’s game is over and its contract ends).

“If players had matched impacts throughout their whole career, you’d see about half the number of concussions" in the newer helmet, said the study's lead author, Steven Rowson, a biomedical engineer at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

The concussion rate for the more modern helmet worn by...

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