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Could better football helmets prevent brain injuries?

For the first time since the 1950s, the largest manufacturers of football helmets in the United States are working to redesign their products. The goal is not to find a faster helmet, or one that is better-looking, but to create a helmet that can do more to prevent head and brain injuries in football players of all ages.

The research and redesign is due to the recent increase in attention on the life-altering effects of brain injuries that occur during the course of a normal football game. As we wrote in an earlier San Diego personal injury blog post, a study recently found that it is not only severe hits that cause head injury on the football field, but usually a series of smaller, less notable hits which are unfortunately standard in just about all football games.

This means that all players need to be better protected from such hits. And because the game is unlikely to change significantly, the helmet is where parents, coaches and officials are turning to find a solution and protect their players.

Last year, a high school in Georgia piloted a new helmet design developed by two sports equipment companies. The product is actually a helmet cover called the Guardian, with 37 gel-filled pouches that cushion against helmet-to-helmet hits. Although the covers have just been worn during practice due to league rules, the coach says that they appear to be making a difference.

"The year before we used the Guardian, we had 10 to 12 kids that had to either miss a practice or two or even a game because of head-injury symptoms. And this year, we had zero," he said. "So from that aspect, I'm sold on it."

Source: Reuters, "Football turns to helmet technology to tackle head injuries," Scott Malone, April 2, 2012

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