Study measures safety of football helmets

May 10, 2011 8:22:52 PM PDT
At Virginia Tech University, a researcher has published a study that will interest football players and their parents.

Dr. Stephen Duma, a biomedical researcher, looked at the safety of football helmets used by high school and college players. His team put accelerometers into helmets of players in games, and also dropped those helmets from different heights to measure impacts that can reach levels of 200 times the force of gravity.

"So, over the course of eight years we collected over a million data points and we analyzed those to really understand how players are hit, how hard, and what direction," said Duma.

Only one helmet, the Riddel Revolution Speed, achieved a five-star rating, due partly to inflatable padding that makes it fit and react very much like a motorcycle helmet. Oddly enough, the study found that the nation's most popular helmet, the Riddell VSR4, earned the lowest rating.

At Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, the football team uses the same kind of helmets. Coach Hardy Nickerson, who played in the NFL for 16 years, is all in favor of more research.

"It helps a lot. You always want to make sure your players are in the best equipment available," he said. "The truth of the matter is you get one brain, so we've got to make sure we're protecting it."

Virginia Tech researchers plan to expand their testing to include baseball helmets, catcher's helmets, and bicycle helmets.

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