No safer football helmet for high school students

Nov. 1, 2013 at 12:23 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Many football helmet and mouth guard manufacturers say their equipment will lessen impact, but U.S. researchers say neither brand nor cost made a difference.

Lead co-investigator Dr. Margaret Alison Brooks said each year approximately 40,000 sport-related concussions occur in U.S. high schools.

"Our preliminary findings suggest that neither any specific brand of football helmet nor custom mouth guards result in fewer concussions in kids who use them," Brooks said in a statement. "Despite what manufacturers might claim, newer and more expensive equipment may not reduce concussion risk. So is it worth the significant extra cost to families and schools?"

The study involved 1,332 football players at 36 high schools during the 2012 football season. Players completed a pre-season demographic and injury questionnaire, and athletic trainers recorded incidence and severity of sport related concussions throughout the year.

Fifty-two percent of the helmets worn by players were manufactured by Riddell, 35 percent by Schutt and 13 percent by Xenith. Thirty-nine percent of the helmets were purchased in 2011-12, 33 percent in 2009-10 and 28 percent in 2002-08. Mouth guards worn by players included generic models provided by schools -- 61 percent -- and specialized mouth guards -- 39 percent -- custom fitted by dental professionals or specifically marketed to reduce sport related concussions.

A total of 115 players, or 8.5 percent, sustained 116 sport related concussions in 2012. The study found there was no difference in sport related concussion rate based on the type of helmet worn, or the year the helmet was purchased. Concussion severity -- based on the number of days lost from play -- was no different for players wearing Riddell, Schutt or Xenith helmets.

The sport related concussion rate for players who wore a specialized or custom-fitted mouth guard was higher than for players who wore generic mouth guards, the study said.

The findings were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

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