Exclusive look at football helmet safety testing


Virginia Tech found that Riddell’s new helmet design worked better than any other.

?? – Preventing concussions has become a top priority for elite players and anyone with a child wearing a soccer jersey, and new technology and research is growing to try to make the game safer for everyone.

Virginia Tech University, which has tracked more than 300,000 impacts on its football team, is the epicenter of research into safer helmets. Their method uses a simple but critical test: lift a sensor-lined football helmet six feet into the air, then drop it onto a rubber-covered concrete and steel block.

The test mimics what players may face on the pitch, researchers told ABC News. Then, a safety rating of one to five stars is assigned to each helmet tested. Helmets with more stars offer a reduced risk of concussion compared to helmets with fewer stars.

“If you don’t make a five-star helmet, you often can’t even bid on the helmet sale. If a school calls for proposals, they’ll say we only take bids for 5-star Virginia Tech said. to ABC News Stefan Duma, director of Virginia Tech’s School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

ABC News got an exclusive look inside the Virginia Tech lab, where engineers are doing something not unlike crash testing for automobiles.

“When you go to buy a car, it’s very clear that it’s a 4-star car, it’s a 5-star car. A lot of work has gone into it. We basically wanted to develop a similar system for helmets,” said Duma. “So when you buy a helmet, you can go to our website and see an independent way to see which ones work better than the others.”

The researchers took ABC News into the lab as they tested three new headsets on the market, each benefiting from new technology – two from manufacturer SG and one from Riddell. SG helmets are lighter, weighing half the weight of other helmets.

“The interesting thing about this helmet,” Duma said in reference to the Simpson or SG helmet, “is that the shell is carbon fiber or Kevlar so it’s super light and they use different padding. inside.”

And one from Riddell – the Speed ​​Flex helmet, which just released this fall.

“For the first time you have a company that makes a non-ridged shell, so you see this part here, it actually warps out of shape, it’s very unusual,” Duma said.

“You can push on that and see how easily it bends,” Duma explained, noting that flexibility should be an added safety feature. “It’s their claim.”

After two consecutive days of testing, all three helmets tested received a 5-star rating. The helmets they test are intended for children 14 years and older.

Virginia Tech found that Riddell’s new flexible design reduced head acceleration better than any helmet tested. Click here for a full list of their tested helmets and reviews.

What the 5-star rating means

The 5-star rating for the two SG helmets came with two important points: Cracks were found in the helmet padding, or liner, in both helmets tested.

SG told ABC News, “Helmets can be used safely throughout the season,” even with a few cracks in the liner. “Annual helmet reconditioning includes liner replacement,” an estimated cost per SG to be around $ 16 per foam liner.

Virginia Tech also noted that SG says its helmets have a two-year lifespan, much shorter than the 10-year lifespan that most other helmet makers claim. The company offers the possibility of re-certifying the helmet after two years.

Regarding the two-year lifespan, SG said “helmets are new technology … and they haven’t been available long enough to know if they’ll last beyond two years.”

Virginia Tech researchers said they hope the work done in the lab to evaluate and improve helmets will make football a safer sport.

“We want parents to learn that getting out of the old helmets, getting into the new best helmets, it will reduce [your kid’s] risk, ”Duma said.


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