Inspired in part by the increased focus on concussions in sports in recent years by the media and safety advocate groups, Virginia Tech researchers set out to test and rate helmets currently on the market for their ability to lessen the risk of concussions. When the results were recently released, only one helmet was given the highest possible rating, while one of the most popularly worn helmets among high school and college players received the lowest rating. It remains to be seen whether or not the manufactures of the lowest rated helmets will be held liable for these dangerous and possibly defective products.
The Virginia Tech tests included embedding accelerometers in the helmets of college football players to track the number and severity of hits to the head, including side impacts, and tracking the number of concussions which resulted. Virginia Tech than conducted drop-tests, from different heights, to measure the amount of force the helmets allowed to reach the skull (the lower the force, the lower the risk of concussion).
While Virginia Tech's research sheds more light on the safety of the helmets that many young football players wear, detractors claim the research is limited in that it failed to include a study of rotational forces.
Currently, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) provides the only industry-wide standard testing on football helmets. The NOCSAE test, however, only tests for a helmet's ability to prevent skull fractures, not concussions or other brain injury.
Football is a violent game, and injuries may always be part of the game. That doesn't mean, however, that manufacturers, coaches, law makers and others shouldn't do all they can to prevent injuries. Virginia Tech's research, while open to criticism, is a step in the right direction to further protecting future generations of football players.