Everyone wants to know which football helmets provide the best protection against concussions.
Is there a way to truly know what difference a football helmet will make? When a player takes a hit to the head there’s the potential for a concussion to occur.
The best modern football helmets now incorporate technology designed to reduce the risk of concussion.
In the past, before there was such an awareness of illness related to concussions, helmets were designed differently.
Testing and testing standards were also different. With new concern and research fresh developments are appearing more frequently.
The NFL has even taken steps to begin banning players from wearing older helmets that do not meet current safety standards.
Football is the most popular and most profitable sport in the USA. There has been a lot of discussion about concussions in American football in the media lately. Concussions are the most common injury amongst high school football players.
Test standards are being updated because in the past they did not test for concussions.
No football helmet can prevent concussions.
With the help of new laboratory testing new designs are being developed that provide greater protection.
Football helmets are not government regulated. They are governed by an industry body and standards have changed little for many years.
Now with heightened awareness progress has become more rapid.
In the past helmets were only tested on how well they could help prevent a skull fracture.
This is what football helmets have traditionally been designed for. Now laboratory testing of football helmets takes other factors into account.
Football helmets are now rated also according to how well they mitigate the impact forces that may lead to brain injury.
These are including rotational forces that can cause nerve cells to stretch and strain as the head is twisted. The focus on this type of impact has lead to the development of MIPS technology in other types of helmets.
Watch this video to learn more about how concussions can occur and impact our brains over a period of time.
The focus of the research presented in the video is centered around head impacts sustained by boxers. We think it is quite relevant to football related concussions.
Which Football Helmet Tests Are Best?
With all the controversy surrounding concussions and related brain diseases it can be hard to know who to trust.
With the NFL facing many lawsuits concerning possibilities they withheld information about the effects of concussion, it could be difficult to trust their advice. You really want to know ay helmet testing is independent. Not related to any biased interest or helmet manufacturer.
Virginia Tech’s Biomechanical Engineering department has conducted concussion research for many years. Their website states research they carry out is “100% independent of any funding or influence from helmet manufacturers.”
They also state that “Since 2011, Virginia Tech researchers have been providing unbiased helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing helmets.
The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of research on head impacts in sports and identifying which helmets best reduce concussion risk. Much of this research is directly related to concussions occurring to football players. They outfit teams with sensors to detect concussion-level hits. They are developing a large database of hits and diagnoses.
Virginia Tech has developed a program called STAR ratings based on their research. Football helmets are rated on their ability to prevent concussions, not only skull fractures.
STAR stands for The Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk.
The tests relate to on-field impact exposure. A series of 24 drop tests are performed at four impact locations and six impact energy levels. The results determine the STAR rating awarded.
For a more detailed description of how the STAR rating works, please visit this page.
Their methods and rating system has not been without it’s critics. Helmet manufacturers are not always happy with the ratings their helmets receive. Ideas on methods of testing differ also.
Virginia Tech’s STAR rating system is currently about the most reliable and is the industry standard. They are now also expanding their rating system to include hockey and cycling helmets.
What do the Virginia Tech Football Helmet Ratings Mean?
Basically STAR helmet ratings classify which helmets best reduce the risk of concussion. The higher star rating, the better protection. Five stars represent the best helmets on the market.
If you are currently not aware of this system, we encourage you to pay attention to it. If you find you are wearing a helmet with a low STAR rating now would be a good time to upgrade to a four or five star rated helmet.
Check out our Recommended Football Helmets.
How Are STAR Ratings Determined for Football Helmets?
Virginia Tech evaluated football helmets through a series of impact tests. These tests it bases around two principle concepts.
Each test is weighted based on how frequently players experience the type of impact.
Helmets that lower head acceleration reduce concussion risk.
The impact conditions and weightings are specific to football. They are inclusive of the broad range of head impacts that players are likely to experience. The STAR ratings identify helmets that best reduce player’s chances of sustaining concussion.
Understanding the science of concussions is incomplete. Standards-makers have shown reluctance to introduce new benchmarks. Until the more research is conducted and exact parameters are clear we are unlikely to see ratings systems developed further.
Virginia Tech focuses on using it’s field data to simulate concussion causality. They rate helmets on their ability to perform in the range of impacts that lead to concussions. Their program is considered an important advance in football helmet testing.
Fitting A Football Helmet
Wearing any helmet that does not fit your head snugly will lessen the effectiveness when an impact occurs. With advanced research focusing not only on direct impact but also rotational impact, helmet fit has become a higher priority.
Football helmet manufacturers are now beginning to offer helmets which are more configurable. These new helmets can be made to fit an individual player’s head more comfortably and closely.
Having a close fit means your helmet will not be so likely to move on your head at the moment an impact occurs. It will also be less likely to be ejected from a player’s head on impact, as we too often see.
Your local college is likely to have an expert on fitting football helmets. Ask them for help. Find the right person, the most experienced, and if you approach them well they are likely to help you.
Respect their knowledge and experience, express your interest in having them help fit a new football helmet. Make contact at a quiet time, not the week before the season starts.
How Do I Choose The Best Football Helmet?
Choosing the best football helmet for you or your child can seem daunting. We hope this article has been of help to you. If you are seeking further unbiased information please read our other articles in this section.
Football helmet design and technology is developing more rapidly now than ever before. At HelmetGeeks.com we will continue to provide you with relevant up to date information.