By Dennis Thompson
health day reporter
MONDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) — High-tech helmets and custom mouthguards no more effectively reduce concussion risk for high school football players than low-cost helmets or off-the-shelf mouthguards , according to a new study .
Neither specific brands nor more expensive protective gear resulted in fewer concussions among more than 1,300 soccer players at 36 high schools during the 2012 season, according to a study scheduled to be presented Monday at a American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) meeting in Orlando, Florida. .
“We’re certainly not saying that helmets and mouth guards aren’t important. They do what they’re supposed to do. Mouth guards prevent dental injuries and helmets prevent skull fractures and leather lacerations scalp and face,” said Dr. Margaret Alison Brooks. , the co-principal investigator of the study. “But I don’t think 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.”
About 40,000 sports-related concussions occur each year in American high schools, the researchers said.
Many manufacturers of football helmets and mouth guards cite lab research that their expensive equipment will better cushion impact and reduce players’ risk of concussion, said Brooks, assistant professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin.
“We wanted to know if we could support the manufacturer’s claims that more expensive, newer and more sophisticated football helmets really reduce the risk of concussion,” she said.
Players involved in the study completed a pre-season questionnaire listing their personal stats and previous injuries. Athletic coaches kept notes of all concussions that occurred throughout the year.
Players wore headsets made by three companies: Riddell (52%), Schutt (35%) and Xenith (13%). About 75% of helmets were relatively new, purchased since 2009.
The study also noted which mouth guards the players wore. About 60% of players wore generic models provided by schools, while the rest wore models custom-fitted by dental professionals or specifically marketed to reduce the risk of concussions.
During the 2012 season, 115 players suffered a concussion, about 8.5% of all players in the study, according to the researchers.
The concussion rate did not vary between players based on the type of helmet worn or the age of the helmet. Helmet brand also made no difference in concussion severity, which was measured by the number of days lost from play due to concussion.
“As long as the helmet their child is wearing is in good condition, properly fitted, and worn correctly, the parent shouldn’t feel bad if their child isn’t wearing a $400 or $500 helmet,” Brooks said.
Players with custom mouthguards actually suffered a higher rate of concussion than those who used generic models.
The realities of physics and human anatomy make it unlikely that a helmet can better reduce concussion risk, Brooks said.
“There’s a lot of debate about creating a helmet that could reduce the risk of concussion, given the structure of the skull,” she said. “The brain is not attached to the skull. It floats freely in the cerebrospinal fluid. You can dissipate the force of something hitting the skull, but you cannot reduce the forces that cause the brain to bounce back and forth. back inside the skull after impact.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr Margot Putukian, director of sports medicine at Princeton University, said the new study adds further evidence to the questionable ability of helmets to prevent concussions.
“I think the companies are well-meaning and trying to develop technology that could reduce the impact, but we don’t see their efforts translating into a reduction in concussions,” said Putukian, who did not participate in the event. the study. “There are risks in sport that cannot be completely negated by equipment.”
Coaches and officials would have a better chance of reducing concussions if they limited contact during practice and taught athletes proper tackle technique, said study author Brooks.
“I personally don’t have a problem putting more emphasis on enforcing rules that limit head contact,” she said. “You shouldn’t lead with your head. You shouldn’t attack with your head. We should teach children that the head shouldn’t be the main point of contact.”
On Sunday, the AAP released a new report with advice for pediatricians caring for children and teens with concussions.
The medical group advised how long children should stay home after a concussion, depending on the severity of symptoms, and recommended using a symptom checklist. The AAP recommended a collaborative team approach, including the player’s pediatrician, family members and some school staff.