Parents whose children play high school football may have more reason than ever to be worried about their kids' safety. This is because there is no football helmet that can protect them from concussions, according to an Oct. 28 University of Wisconsin study.
About 40,000 concussions occur every year in high school sports, but researchers say no brand of football helmet can reduce the risk of concussions.
"We're certainly not saying that helmets and mouth guards aren't important," said Dr. Margaret Alison Brooks, who led the University of Wisconsin study.
Mouth guards prevent dental injuries, and helmets prevent skull fractures and scalp and face lacerations. But I don't think the manufacturing companies have the data to support [the claim that] if a parent buys a specific model, their child will have a reduced risk of concussion."
There's a lot of debate regarding whether you can create a helmet that could reduce concussion risk, given the structure of the skull. The brain isn't attached to the skull. It's floating freely in spinal fluid. You can dissipate the force of something striking the skull, but you can't reduce the forces that make the brain bounce back and forth inside the skull following impact."
Dr. Brooks, an assistant professor of orthopedics, presented her findings Oct. 28 at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Sports-equipment companies sell both inexpensive and extremely expensive football helmets, but neither can adequately shield kids from concussions, which has been linked to long-term brain damage in numerous studies.
Brooks said the best way to reduce the incidence of concussions is to enforce stricter rules about head contact on the football field and to teach better tackling techniques so children's heads and necks don't get broken or otherwise damaged.
I personally don't have a problem with more emphasis on enforcing rules that limit contact with the head. You shouldn't be leading with your head. You shouldn't be tackling with your head. We should be teaching kids that the head should not be the leading point of contact."
Dr. Brooks' findings came a week after former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre revealed he is suffering severe memory loss from years of hard tackles and concussions. Favre was sacked a record 525 times during his career — more than any other quarterback in NFL history.
Favre's shocking revelation came shortly after a massive class-action lawsuit was filed in 2012 against the National Football League, where over 4,000 former players alleged the NFL deliberately concealed evidence of the link between football-related head injuries and long-term neurological damage. The NFL settled that lawsuit in August 2013, and agreed to pay $765 million to 18,000 former football players.
In October 2013, Dr. Mehmet Oz was slammed in an Los Angeles Times column for endorsing the NFL in its promotional ad campaign. The author, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Michael Hiltzik, said Dr. Oz's glowing endorsement of football as a manly "rite of passage" grossly underplayed the dangers of concussions in both high-school and NFL football.