March 22, 2016 - Aaron Wilson
Football helmet safety goes back to proper fit
When it comes to safety, concussions and helmet design, Schutt Sports is a big believer that the top helmets come back to individual fit and advancements in structure and technology to ensure football players have the best possible protection. As the debate about concussions and head injuries continues, Schutt is heavily involved in talking with players to get feedback about the helmets. “It’s long been our belief that the best helmet for any player, regardless of age or level of play, is the helmet that fits him the best,” said Glenn Beckmann, Schutt director of marketing communications. “We’re getting reactions from players and hearing stories from the field, indicating that they’re starting to believe better fit equals better performance.” A study published in February by the American Journal of Sports Medicine seems to support the position that the specific helmet model a player wears may not make a significant difference. After studying 3.5 million athlete exposures over a five-season period from 2008-2009 through 2012-2013, the study concluded the most common helmet manufacturers and models provided similar protection against concussions. That seems to contradict other published information, like the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings™ - a star-based rating system for football helmets that claims certain models are better than others at reducing the risk of concussions. Schutt Sports makes the two top-scoring helmets in the Virginia Tech system, but continues to believe that fit is one of the most critical factors to consider when choosing a helmet. Creating a better fitting helmet is always one of the top priorities for their engineers and designers. “We already make great helmets, but we thought we could improve them even more,” said Cortney Warmouth, vice president of research and development at Schutt. “Our newest helmet, the Vengeance Z10, features our new Helmet Stabilization System, which increases the number of contact points inside the helmet with the player’s head. That increased contact area creates a more stabilized position for the head.” The Z10 features an extended cheek pad that frames a player’s face, giving him a secure, “locked-in” feel inside the helmet, with no independent movement of the head. On the exterior of the helmet, the system’s cheek bumpers reinforce the strength and durability of the helmet shell. A helmet’s weight can also create issues for football players, as well, especially younger players who are too old to wear youth helmets. A heavier helmet can lead to tired or weakened neck muscles, which can cause the player to lower his head during the game. A player in that position is more likely to have increased contact to his helmet and head. As new information develops about football's battle with concussions and other injuries, it could come back to a simple axiom: better fit equals better protection. Follow me on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL Aaron Wilson covers the Texans for The Houston Chronicle.