New study questions whether football helmets prevent concussions

A startling new study regarding football helmets and how they protect kids from concussions has left parents scratching their heads.

These findings are only preliminary and won't be presented to the American Academy of Neurology until spring. But when it comes to concussion protection, the study's co-author, Dr. Frank Conidi, director of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology and an assistant clinical professor of neurology at Florida State University College of Medicine, says all of the helmets tested were "terrible."

Using sensors, researchers measured how well ten leading helmets protected against brain injuries during 12 mph impacts.

In straight-on hits, the helmets reduced the risk of skull fractures by 60 to 70 percent; the risk of brain tissue bruising was reduced by 70 to 80 percent, compared to no helmets at all. But in side-hits, the helmets reduced the risk of brain injuries by only 20 percent, compared to no helmets at all.

In this most recent study, researchers found that the worst helmet for protecting against concussions was the Schutt Air Advantage. The helmet that tested the best for concussion protection was the Adams A2000.

But before you run out and buy your kid a new $200 helmet, look at the ratings released by Virginia Tech-Wake Forest researchers in May 2013.

They did not recommend the Adams A2000 Pro Elite; the Schutt Air Advantage rated adequate.

Bottom line: teaching kids how to take a hit may be just as important as what they're wearing when they do.

Click here for more on the new push to teach kids how to take hits safely.

Other considerations:

  • Players should train to strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Officials at all levels need to enforce the rules against head-first contact.
  • Parents should make sure children involved in any sport with potential contact have a baseline concussion test before they hit the field. If they become injured, it can help in their medical assessment.