More expensive football helmets not necessarily safer, study says

football scrimmage

Photo: Pamela Moore/iStockphoto

Aurora, CO – Maintenance of helmets may be more important than price when it comes to protecting young football players from concussions, according to a recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus analyzed five years of high school football concussion and helmet data using the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System. They found no significant difference in effectiveness between the most expensive helmets and cheaper helmets.

However, the effects of concussions lingered longer on average for players who wore old helmets that had not been reconditioned within the previous 12 months. Old helmets that had been reconditioned within 12 months showed similar results to new helmets.

Researchers offered several pieces of advice to parents. For one, make sure that helmets carry a seal from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. Also, parents should ask how long it has been since the helmet issued to their child was reconditioned. Make sure that schools follow reconditioning guidelines from manufacturers.

“Many parents don’t think to ask if the helmet issued to their child is new or previously used or, if not new, when it was last reconditioned,” study senior author Dawn Comstock said in a press release. “Parents should be asking questions and not assuming that the helmet assigned to their child is safe.”

The study was published online Feb. 23 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.