The NFL has made no secret of its initiative to increase player safety, doing everything from mandating concussion protocols before players can return to action to fining players for helmet to helmet hits. One thing they may need to try is mandating all players wear the highest quality, safest helmets available. Because according to Sports Illustrated and the researchers at Virginia Tech, nearly 40 percent of players wore one of the lowest-rated helmets available last season.
Riddell’s VSR-4 helmet received just one star in a study of football helmets led by Virginia Tech professor of biomedical engineering Stefan Duma and released Tuesday. Another Riddell model — the Revolution Speed — was the only helmet that earned five stars, the top rating.
According to Riddell, 38 percent of NFL players wore the low-rated VSR-4 in 2010. The company also said 39 percent wore one of the various models that fall under the Riddell Revolution name or the new Riddell 360.
“It is our hope that based upon this and other independent research, that players and teams at all levels will continue to migrate to the Revolution family of helmets,” Riddell Sports president Dan Arment said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press by an outside PR firm that represents the manufacturer.
Players are free to use any helmet they like but Riddell has a sponsorship deal with the league and any player wearing a non-Riddell helmet has to put his team’s name or logo over the brand insignia on the front and back of the helmet. A lot of this comes down to player preference, if a guy has worn the same helmet since he was 12, he’s going to probably feel comfortable with it, that’s natural. However, those older helmets are considerably less safe than the new-age ones that come out every year.
Fortunately for Riddell they didn’t boast the lowest of the ratings, a helmet made by Adams was rated “not recommended.” Still, from one to five stars the league needs to start to mandate that players use the top-rated helmets. This shouldn’t be about money or loyalty to a two decades old sponsorship partner, if the NFL is serious about player safety only the best helmets should suffice.
“All of these helmets protect you from skull fracture, so what we’re doing is going to the next level and looking at how they protect you from brain injury,” Duma said.
“We’re basing this analysis off a million impacts we’ve collected,” added Duma, who called the study the culmination of about eight years of research. “We know how players are hit. … It’s much more elaborate than anyone’s ever looked at, in terms of evaluating the performance of helmets.”
Concussions occur when the brain moves inside the skull from an impact or a whiplash effect, but it’s still an injury that doctors — not to mention players and executives in various sports – are learning about. There is general consensus that concussions cannot be eliminated from football. But as more links have emerged between head injuries and disease later in life, the NFL has stepped up its efforts to educate players about concussions and protect them from the injury.
With that in mind the NFL needs to mandate players wear the highest quality helmets, it’s frankly amazing to me that they don’t already (but then again this is the league that lets players forego wearing leg pads because it looks cool). It would be highly hypocritical to preach and lecture about head injuries and then let the players go out in sub-par equipment because it says Riddell over the facemask. But then again, money is what drives this league.